Facebook campaigners skirt rules in Guinea election, study says


  • Social media
  • Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020

The pro-Conde pages, most of which were were created late 2019 or on a single day in March 2020, have a combined following of some 800,000 people. — Dreamstime/TNS

Guinea’s ruling party is running a coordinated propaganda network on Facebook Inc ahead of October elections that’s inconsistent with transparent campaigning rules, Stanford University said in a report to be released Monday.

Researchers found 94 pages “clearly” tied to the ruling party, but failing to disclose that they’re being paid to post text and images in support of President Alpha Conde. Many of the administrators hide their identities by using names such as “Guineas, Open Your Eyes” or false names such as “Alpha the Democrat”, according to the report. Conde is seeking a third term in the Oct 18 vote.

After investigating, Facebook said it won’t suspend the pages because they are operated by real people with real identities. The company is working on tools to help people better understand who’s behind the pages they follow, a spokeswoman said by email. In the US, the platform has introduced a tab called “Organisations That Manage This Page” to help avoid a “misleading experience”, and the company will look closer at bringing the tab to additional countries, she said in response to queries.

A spokesman for Conde’s campaign could not be reached for comment.

The pro-Conde pages, most of which were were created late 2019 or on a single day in March 2020, have a combined following of some 800,000 people. In the US the social media platform has added political advertising transparency and controls, and worked to remove and disclose coordinated campaigns. However, the Guinean propaganda network exposes “gray areas in Facebook’s policies”, the Stanford study said.

“We believe this network is pushing up against the boundaries of acceptable behaviour on Facebook,” Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said in an interview. “If you are being paid by political candidates to post media that supports those candidates, you should be transparent of who you are and who you are affiliated with.” – Bloomberg

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