After 2016 election, US poised to fight fake news — in Kenya
After 2016 election, US poised to fight fake news — in Kenya
It happened with a BBC video, too, and with a photo purportedly of Kenyan security forces killing protesters that was actually from Tanzania, and with thousands of spurious blog posts and other false reports that flooded the popular messaging app WhatsApp, fueling further divisions and turmoil in an election that morphed into a major political crisis.
So the US government is gearing up to fight fake news — not at home, where it’s the subject of heated debate following the 2016 presidential campaign, but in Kenya, where America has sought to nurture a vibrant but volatile African democracy.
“Information is, of course, power, and frankly, fake news is a real danger,” US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said in an interview, adding that it had eroded confidence in Kenya’s real news media. “It’s being weaponized. It’s undermining democracy in Kenya.”
Godec kicked off the awareness campaign this past week with an email to the 47,000 members of the State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative asking them to pledge to prevent the spread of fake media by pausing to verify the source and validity before passing information along to others through social media. For a while this week, the hashtag #StopReflectVerify was the No. 2 trending hashtag on Twitter in Kenya, where the US Embassy pushed it to its 256,000 followers.
In addition to offering resources for discriminating between fact and fake, the campaign involves three-day training sessions for public affairs officials in Kenya’s counties, encouraging local governments to be more responsive and forthcoming so that journalists on deadline can fact-check information they hear. Though it’s starting in Kenya, the program is expected to expand, with an Africa-wide international fact-checking day and a global, virtual event on World Press Freedom Day in May anchored out of Nairobi.
The focus on fighting fake news in Kenya stands in contrast to what’s happening in the United States, where President Donald Trump uses the term to denigrate credible news outlets that publish critical coverage about him or his Republican administration. Trump has also continually downplayed the role that false information from illegitimate sources may have played in affecting the outcome of the election. Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians accused of using a network of fake social media accounts and targeted political messages to stir up turmoil in the 2016 race.
The campaign also comes as the US has been warning Kenya’s government about worrisome restrictions on the legitimate news media. The group Human Rights Watch has said Kenyan officials try to stop critical coverage by threatening, intimidating and harassing journalists. The United States was particularly concerned in February when Kenya shut down major broadcasters after opposition leader Raila Odinga held a mock inauguration on television.
In Kenya, the fake news problem has also raised fears about violence being stoked by false facts that often mushroom on social media before they can be stopped.
At election time, a fake but realistic-looking US diplomatic cable circulated that appeared to show embassy officials predicting instability, celebratory violence, “severe unrest and a massive breakdown of law and order” if Odinga were to defeat Kenyatta in the election. The US embassy quickly tweeted its own version of the cable with the word “FAKE” slapped across it in bold red font.
Yet there are risks for the US in appearing to tell people what to believe, say or not say in Kenya, a former British colony. So the embassy is taking pains to show it’s a locally driven operation, partnering with groups like AfricaCheck, a fact-checking website similar to the US site Snopes.com.
“We’re not asking them to believe any particular thing,” Godec said. “We’re just saying, don’t take everything you see on your phone via WhatsApp as the truth because it may not be.”
Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting
- It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only
- Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America
WASHINGTON: A complaint has been filed with the US government accusing Facebook and 10 other companies of using the platform’s job ad targeting system to discriminate on the basis of gender.
The complaint was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, a union called the Communications Workers of America and a labor law firm, on behalf of three female job seekers and a group of “thousands” of members represented by the union.
It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only. It also alleges that most of the listings were for jobs in male-dominated fields, so women and non-binary users were excluded from seeing these ads.
Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America, the complaint reads.
“I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman,” said Bobbi Spees, one of the three women named in the complaint.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement to CNNMoney that there is no place for discrimination on Facebook.
“It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse,” Osborne said.
Facebook will defend itself once it has reviewed the complaint, he added.
The ACLU noted that online platforms such as Facebook are generally not liable for content published by others.
“But in this case, Facebook is doing much more than merely publishing content created by others,” the advocacy group argued.
“It has built the architecture for this discriminatory marketing framework, enabled and encouraged advertisers to use it, and delivered the gender-based ads according to employers’ sex-based preferences.”
Last month the US Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of breaking the law by letting landlords and home sellers use its ad-targeting system to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants.
Facebook responded by cutting more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent advertisers from discriminating on the basis of traits such as religion or race.