Harare – American social media behemoth Facebook Inc has said it will censor information disseminated on its platform on elections in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This comes after another social media platform, Twitter, also took it upon itself to determine which views could be expressed about elections in Uganda and Tanzania.
Ironically, the platforms are often touted as bastions of freedom of expression, but observers say they are increasingly suppressing pro-government views in Africa by blacklisting account holders who openly express sentiments that support the status quo.
The platforms have used the labels of “fake news” and “hate speech” to silence certain voices.
At its inaugural meeting on Southern Africa this week, Facebook said it would closely follow posts on elections in Zambia, scheduled for August 12 this year, and also those in Zimbabwe in 2023.
“For instance, Zimbabwe will be having its elections in 2023 but we are aware that Zambia will be having its elections in 2021 on 12 August, so work is already underway to work with the relevant, key and critical stakeholders, leading up to the Zambian elections. Just that we make sure that these elections integrity is upheld,” Facebook, Southern Africa head of public policy Ms Nomonde Gongxeka–Seopa said.
Ms Gongxeka-Seopa said Facebook would train electoral officers on how to use its monitoring tools, which she said were designed to safeguard polls.
She further indicated they would have “enforcers” or “market teams” on the ground to monitor the situation and flag any content that may compromise polls. Facebook would also work with human rights community-based organisations.
“Elections have changed and so has Facebook and all elections are important to us. We now have an important responsibility when it comes to how the people participate in elections and to ensure safe, secure and free elections,” Ms Gongxeka-Seopa said.
Facebook Sub-Saharan Africa head of communications Ms Kezia Anim Addo urged social media users in Zambia and Zimbabwe to report any content and accounts that violated its policies.
“We have tools in place where people can actually report and we encourage people utilise those tools to inform us because sometimes unless certain things are not brought to our attention, it might take a little bit longer to detect such information,” she said.
Between October and December 2020, Facebook disabled 1,3 billion accounts globally, up from 694 million in the same period in 2017.