Today, we are sharing an update on our work to prepare for and help preserve the integrity of the general elections taking place in Nigeria on 25 February 2023.
This work will continue in the lead-up to, during and after the vote. It is grounded in long-running investments we have made in people, technology and partnerships to help reduce the spread of misinformation, detect and remove hate speech, improve digital literacy, help make political advertising more transparent and ensure the safety of people using our platforms.
Removing Harmful Content to Keep People Safe
We want people to be able to talk openly on our apps about the issues that matter to them, whilst still feeling safe. Our Community Standards (also available in Hausa) publicly explain what content is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and Instagram, and cover a number of areas relevant to elections. These include policies on harassment and incitement to violence, as well as detailed hate speech policies that ban attacks on people based on characteristics like ethnicity or religion. When we become aware of content that violates these rules, we remove it.
Since 2016, we’ve quadrupled the size of our global team working on safety and security to 40,000 people. This includes over 15,000 content reviewers who review content across Facebook and Instagram in more than 70 languages — including Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
As Election Day approaches, we will activate a Nigeria-specific Elections Operations Center focused on identifying potential threats across our apps and technologies in real time, accelerating our response time. This initiative will bring together experts from across our company on our intelligence, data science, engineering, research, operations, public policy and legal teams.
Combating Misinformation and False News
We remove the most serious kinds of misinformation from Facebook and Instagram, such as content that could contribute to imminent violence or physical harm, or that is intended to suppress voting. This includes false news related to voting dates, locations, time and methods. For the Nigerian elections, based on guidance from local partners, this will specifically include photos and videos shared out of context that falsely depict ballot-stuffing, acts of violence or weapons.
For content that doesn’t violate these particular policies, we work with independent fact-checking organisations in Nigeria — AFP, Africa Check, Dubawa and Reuters — who review and rate content in English, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. When content is rated “false” or “partly false” by these fact checkers, we attach warning labels to the content and reduce its distribution in Facebook Feed so people are less likely to see it.
To help Nigerians spot and take action against false news online, we’ve partnered with local radio stations to create “#NoFalseNewsZone” radio dramas in English and Pidgin, and run ads on Facebook and radio in Yoruba, Pidgin, Hausa and Igbo.
Addressing Virality on WhatsApp
WhatsApp will continue to limit peoples’ ability to forward messages and announced last year that any message that has been forwarded once can only be forwarded to one group at a time, rather than the previous limit of five. When we introduced the same feature for highly forwarded messages in 2020, we reduced the number of these messages sent on WhatsApp by more than 70%.
WhatsApp’s Search the Web function also lets people double-check the text content of messages that have been forwarded many times. This means that they can find other sources of information about content they’ve received.
People can also control who can add them to group chats and have options to block and report unknown contacts, giving them even more control over their privacy.
Making Political Advertising More Transparent
Advertisers seeking to run ads related to social issues, elections or politics on our apps in Nigeria must undergo a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in the country. Their ads will also be labelled with a “Paid for by” disclaimer to show who’s behind it.
We’ve also introduced new controls so people can choose to see fewer ads about social issues, elections and politics. When people use these controls they’ll no longer see ads that are labelled with the “Paid for by” disclaimer.
All political and electoral ads are added to our Ads Library for seven years, so that everyone can see what ads are running, see information about targeting and find out how much was spent on them.
Fighting Election Interference
We’ve built specialised global teams to stop election interference, focusing on coordinated inauthentic behaviour (CIB) — when groups of people use sophisticated networks of Pages, Groups and accounts to try and manipulate public debate.
Since 2017, we have removed more than 150 networks globally for coordinated inauthentic behaviour including ahead of major elections, and we remain vigilant to this behaviour. We will remove and publicly share details of any networks of CIB that we identify across our technologies related to the election.
Working With Local Organisations
We are working closely with election authorities, including The Independent National Electoral Commission, and other local partners in Nigeria to ensure we’re preparing appropriately for the specific challenges an election brings.
We have engaged with women safety organisations such as TechHer, ElectHer, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund, and WIMBIZ to support a range of initiatives that encourage civic engagement. We’ve also provided digital security and safety training for vulnerable groups including female public figures and human rights defenders.
We have also provided training for grassroots civil society organisations that are working to prevent and counter violent extremism in Nigeria, organised in partnership with Search for Common Ground, and conducted a roundtable with experts, academics and think tanks that are working on counterterrorism efforts in the country.
Encouraging Civic Engagement
When it comes to elections, people should have easy access to accurate information from credible sources. That’s why we’ve supported Yiaga Africa, a non-partisan voter education non-profit, through a donation to develop a voter education chatbot on WhatsApp.
Launched on February 1st, 2023, the chatbot helps provide Nigerian voters with secure information on voting rules, positions up for election, what to expect on voting day and the tools they need to exercise their vote. Anyone can access the chatbot by messaging +234 (0) 906 283 0860 on WhatsApp or click wa.me/+2349062830860.
We’ll also have an “I Voted” sticker on Instagram. And on Election Day, we’ll remind people in the country that it’s time to vote with a notification on top of their Facebook Feed as well.