Facebook is expanding its coverage of local languages in Africa in a bid to combat fake news and misinformation.
The giant social media company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has added new local language support for several African languages as part of its third-party fact-checking program. The languages added include Kiswahili, Yoruba, Igbo, Wolof, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, and Setswana.
Facebook has partnered with Africa Check for this project. The initiative aims at assessing the accuracy of news on Facebook as well as reducing the spread of misinformation. Facebook’s Head of Public Policy in Africa Kojo Boakye says the move will build supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities.
“Our third-party fact-checking program is just one of many ways that we are doing this. With the expansion of local language coverage, this will help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. We know there is still more to do, and we’re committed to this,” Boakye said.
Fake news and misinformation have increasingly become a problem. The sharing of misinformation is especially made easier through the internet. A December 2016 survey by Pew Research Centre showed that 23% of US adults have shared fake news, knowingly or unknowingly, with friends or with others.
Facebook came under fire for the role it played in getting Donald Trump elected as president of the US through misinformation campaigns by Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica was also implicated in influencing the 2017 Kenyan election via the Uhuru Kenyatta campaign and influencing the Brexit leave vote in the UK.
In response to the criticism, Facebook launched its fact-checking program in December 2016. However, the fact-checking program was heavily focused on English. This meant that misinformation continued to spread in other languages, especially in countries where English was not the primary language.
Header Image Credit: Tech Crunch