As a first, the Fijian Elections Office[‘FEO’] held a meeting with Meta, the owners of Facebook in its office in Sydney on 24 May 2022.
At the meeting, the Supervisor of Elections, Manager Public Relations and the Coordinator for the Centre for Credible Election Information[‘CCEI’] held discussions on numerous topics and presented FEO’s various initiatives during the meeting.
“We welcome the opportunity to meet with the executives of Facebook in Australia, the regional headquarters so that we could thrash out various initiatives, opportunities as well issues arising out of the Facebook platform which is one of the most widely used social media platforms in Fiji” explained Mr. Saneem.
“We took this opportunity to also discuss with Facebook the training and security measures for the 2022 General Election and it was a very useful first meeting and we look forward to more meetings in the future,” Mr Saneem said.
FEO notes that whilst Facebook is most widely used social media platform, it has also been found to have the most amount of misinformation as identified by the survey participants in the FEO’s pre-election survey. This is the matter that the FEO will not take lightly and the CCEI has been one of the initiatives of the FEO to carry out fact-checking, rebuttals, corrections of fake news and false information that has been published in Fiji.
“It was also an opportunity for the Fijian Election Management Body, to put critical matters of context to Facebook executives so that they have a better understanding of the entire process and we had emphasized to Facebook that it needs to play a greater role in the combating of disinformation and misinformation during the general election, which was received positively by the social media giant,” Mr Saneem said.
Going into the 2022 General Election, the FEO believes that the right to information is also expanded to the right to be protected from the misinformation and disinformation.
As identified in the 2018 General Election reports, the 2018 General Election was plagued by directly engineered misinformation which is now termed ‘disinformation’. Therefore, it is critical for the FEO to implement counter-measures for such unethical practices whether it is a Candidate, Political Party or anonymous individuals hiding behind fake profiles in Fiji.
“As an example, we have raised with Facebook the growing concerns in Fiji in relation to persons’ using fake identities to harass individuals, fake pages to harass every sector of the society, hiding behind anonymity” Mr. Saneem remarks.
Facebook and FEO will soon collaborate to organize training for all political parties on using the platform and its features more effectively in the 2022 General Election.