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How Facebook derailed Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement

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The flagging of #EndSARS content was no ‘mistake’

Protesters at the #EndSARS protest in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Kaizenify via Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Facebook’s censorship of #EndSARS content is “is all too common,” asserts Jillian C. York, American activist and director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 

York informed Global Voices via Twitter Direct Message that “Instagram didn’t just make a ‘mistake’ here.” Rather, this was a consequence of “their poorly-developed content moderation and flagging systems — not a bug,” York emphasized.

Biddle blamed Facebook for its sparse investment in content moderation: 

Investigations by journalists and leaks from inside the company demonstrate that Facebook does not put adequate financial or human resources towards its content moderation processes.

The few exceptions to this deficient moderation by Facebook is “in countries like Germany, where it is strictly regulated, but it’s reasonable to suspect (and we don’t know, because of Facebook’s lack of transparency) that Facebook puts far fewer resources toward moderation of content in Nigeria, in spite of the fact that Nigeria is a much larger country,” wrote Biddle via email to Global Voices. 

Dr. Qemal Affagnon, West Africa’s regional coordinator at Internet Sans Frontières, told Global Voices via email that it is an ironic “form of arrogance” for Facebook to harvest “metadata from the pictures shared by Nigerians” while “penalizing” their freedom of expression.

The metadata of Nigerians while constituting a breach in privacy makes the “business profitable” for the American tech company. Affagnon explains further that “Facebook relies on metadata from photos such as the date, time and location of the mobile devices that are used to take photos. These metadata are extremely important for profiling people (where are you, who you are with, what type of car is behind you for example) — precious information that advertisers are interested in.”

The censorship comes as the technology giant is seeking entry into the Nigerian market. Four years ago, in September 2016, Lagos, Nigeria, was Mark Zuckerberg’s first destination during his trip to Africa. In an obvious testament to Nigeria’s booming tech ecosystem, Facebook recently announced that it will be opening its second Africa office in Lagos, by the second half of 2021. 

Affagnon said that this makes the censoring of #EndSARS content, both “disturbing and difficult to understand,” considering the tech company’s inroads into the Nigerian market. However, Facebook has shown, Affagnon asserts, “that it has no respect for the diversity of point of view which is dangerous for democracy” and “violates Nigerian internet users’ rights while showing a disgusting form of authoritarianism.”

The “incorrect flagging” of #EndSARS content by Facebook and Instagram contributed to state-sponsored social media obfuscation of the shooting of protesters in Lekki toll gate, Lagos. Both the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Army have either denied the fatalities recorded or described the shootings as fake news, despite ample evidence from journalists and human rights groups like Amnesty International

Facebook has never been “fully transparent with the public about how and why it might censor a hashtag like this [#EndSARS],” Biddle said. Thus, the need for “a full audit and overhaul of their systems, and a commitment to transparency, user notice, and appeals in every case,” noted York. 
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Written by Nwachukwu Egbunike

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: October 30, 2020 at 09:22PM

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