ADDIS ABABA – Facebook has shared an update on its ongoing election integrity work in Ethiopia on Friday as the country braces for general elections on June 21st 2021.
This work, its statement issued today says, will continue in the lead up to, during and after the vote, and builds on Facebook’s efforts in understanding and addressing the way social media is used in Ethiopia.
The owner of Facebook and Instagram social media platforms says its integrity work includes detecting and removing hate speech and content that incites violence.
The others are reducing the spread of misinformation, improving digital literacy, and taking steps to make political advertising more transparent.
The company’s Head of Public Policy for East and Horn of Africa, Mercy Ndegwa, said the company is committed to election integrity and this effort in Ethiopia is informed by the conversations Facebook is having with various groups including human rights groups.
“These efforts are being implemented by a team purpose-built to focus on the Ethiopian election,” Ndegwa said.
“Local understanding is critical to doing this work effectively, therefore the team includes a number of people in and from Ethiopia including experts in topics like misinformation, hate speech, elections and disinformation.”
Facebook opened its first Center in 2018, ahead of the elections held that year in the United States and Brazil.
Since then, Facebook has run operations centers for major elections around the world, including upcoming elections in Ethiopia.
The company expects the center will enable itself to respond in real time to potential problems and abuses it sees emerging in Ethiopia,” said the company.
Tackling hate speech
Tackling hate speech and other harmful content is part of its integrity work in Ethiopia, according to the statement.
The company’s Community Standards – which set out what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook – cover a number of areas relevant to elections.
These involve incitement to violence and detailed hate speech policies that ban attacks on people based on ethnicity or religion and others.
Facebook says it removes any content that it’s made aware of that violates these rules in the platform.
The statement says the social media firm also invested in proactive detection technology that helps catch violating content before people report it to Facebook.
Over the last few years, Facebook tripled the size of the global team working on safety and security to over 35,000 and hired more content reviewers who are native speakers of Amharic, Oromo and Somali, while having the capacity to review content in Tigrgna.
These investments are having an impact, it says.
Between March 2020 and March 2021 alone, it has removed 87,000 pieces of hate speech in Ethiopia, about 89% of which were detected proactively, according to the firm.
The company also announced it has taken additional steps including a proactive detection technology to identify misinformation, such as content that is intended to suppress voting or which could cause violence or physical harm.
Other measures on its ongoing election integrity work includes improving the transparency of political ads on Facebook and Instagram through newly introduced tools and rolling out a media literacy campaign, aimed at educating and informing people on how to detect potential false news.