Cameroon asks Facebook to help beat fake news as election looms

The government of Cameroon is now soliciting the services of Facebook to help fight the spread of fake news and hate speech, especially during the upcoming presidential election.

A team from the U.S.-based company has been holding meetings and training sessions with stakeholders in Cameroon.

This comes after a two day symposium on digital rights and elections was held in Yaounde. Organizers want Facebook to help reduce the amount of misinformation that appears online during electoral periods without undermining the rights of internet users.

There are growing fears that the Cameroon government will block internet service particularly to citizens in the English speaking northwest and southwest regions during the October 7 presidential poll.

Ironically, Cameroon’s Post and Telecommunications Ministry dismissed concerns of government-imposed internet shutdown as “sheer manipulation and fake news”.

But as the tensions in Cameroon’s restive anglophone regions have spilled over the last 20 months, the government has tried to control the spread of information and the use of internet to organize protesters by shutting down internet service in those regions. The country has one the worst records with a cumulative 230 days shutdown, according to Access Now.

Online and free speech activists said the action was an infringement on the rights of citizens and that the government could adopt other measures to fight against fake news.