Facebook will be invited to face questions in South African parliament

The Parliamentary Committee of Communications and Digital Technologies has agreed to invite Facebook to answer questions around misinformation surrounding the 2021 elections.

This follows after the Democratic Alliance requested the parliamentary committee invite Facebook to meet and address concerns over the moderation of content on its social media platforms.

“The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased that the Committee of Communications and Digital Technologies has agreed to invite Facebook to meet with the committee,” the DA said in a statement following the announcement.

“We trust that Facebook, in good faith, will accept the offer to appear before the committee, in order to build a relationship with Parliament and clarify concerns.”

The DA said that it did not want to use the opportunity to shut down freedom of speech, but to combat fakes news on Facebook and protect South Africans from hate speech.

“From the DA’s perspective the aim is not to use the opportunity to shut down protected freedom of speech but to deal with the proliferation of fake news in its form as disinformation and misinformation, as well as protecting the people of South Africa against harmful Hate Speech that could result in violence,” the party said.

Facebook Africa must monitor election

The invitation to answer questions in parliament will be directed to Facebook’s local presence via Facebook Africa’s offices in Johannesburg.

The DA argued that the global social media company must pay more attention to the misinformation on its platforms proliferating within countries outside of global superpowers.

“While the company has committed to strengthening content moderation their efforts are usually focused on countries that are global powerhouses like the United States, the European Union and others, like our own, are not a priority,” the DA said.

“Importantly, Facebook Africa needs to provide a plan on what steps it will be taking in tackling misinformation ahead of the 2021 Local Government Election, as it has done for elections in other parts of the world.”

Globally, Facebook has implemented stringent measures over the past year to combat the spread of fake news worldwide related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The social media platform now warns users if they share or engage with articles and links that contain false information about COVID-19.

The company launched a dedicated COVID-19 data hub on users’ home feeds, which provides links to and updates from official sources of information based on the user’s location.

It also shows links to the pages and websites of several institutes Facebook regards as recognised health organisations.

In South Africa, this includes the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the National Department of Health, Doctors Without Borders/MSF South Africa, and Africa CDC.

Now read: Microsoft says Facebook and Google should pay publishers for news

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Facebook will be invited to face questions in South African parliament