Facebook Adds 10 African Languages To Its Fact-Checking Program, But Unwilling To Remove Fake News

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Facebook African languages
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose. Facebook has added African languages to its third-party review program to try and stop the spread of fake news. AP Photo – Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Around 46.65 million Facebook users in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal will now have news content in their languages reviewed by Facebook to reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation on the platform.

That’s the official line from Silicon Valley-based Facebook. However, the policy of the social media giant is to limit the exposure of false news posts rather than to remove them altogether.

Facebook has added 10 African languages to its third-party fact-checking program, according to a statement from the company.

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In 2018, Facebook partnered with Africa Check, the first independent fact-checking organization on the continent, to expand its local language coverage.

The initiative began in five sub-Saharan countries including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon, AfricaOutlook reports.

More African languages

Facebook has now built on that partnership by adding more African languages spoken in those countries.

The new languages include Yoruba and Igbo in Nigeria, Swahili in Kenya, Wolof in Senegal, and Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele in South Africa, according to TheCitizen.

Hausa was already supported in Nigeria.

Facebook relies on feedback and reporting from users to flag content that should be reviewed.

Despite Facebook’s well-documented promises to control fake news, stories that have been deemed as fake or misleading do not disappear entirely off of Facebook. 

If one of Facebook’s fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in the news feed, which it says “significantly reduces its distribution.” 

Unless the content being reviewed violates Facebook’s rules against graphic violence or nudity, it is not removed from the site.

Facebook says that it allows people to post fake news content as a form of expression, but says it will not show that content at the top of the news feed, according to BBC.

This does little to discredit the information included in such posts. It can still be shared and the message spread further than if it had been immediately deleted.