We must not allow misinformation and hate speech to thrive, urges Sifile

ZAMBIA is a peaceful country and we must not allow a situation where misinformation and hate speech are allowed to thrive, says Panos Institute Southern Africa executive director Vusumuzi Sifile.

During a response partners workshop for iVerify Zambia fact checking mechanism meeting, Sifile said Panos was implementing a new technology based multi-stakeholder fact checking and response mechanism designed to support the collective and timely identification and mitigation of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech in Zambia.

He said the mechanism was centred on promoting responsible content creation and dissemination during and beyond the general elections.

“Through the iVerify Zambia mechanism, we are addressing misinformation, disinformation and hate speech both on online and offline platforms, including the mainstream and community media actors. We are working with different stakeholders to ensure that issues that are identified are quickly responded to,” Sifile said. “The responses may include but are not limited to retraction, correction or deletion of offensive content or in relevant actions being taken by relevant stakeholders.”

He said the mechanism presents an opportunity for coordinated, collective identification, analysis and response to misinformation, disinformation and hate speech phenomena not just during elections but as an integral part of the information ecosystem in the country.

Sifile said at the centre of the mechanism was a digital IT solution with automated features, a centralised database of verified information, and disinformation narratives to feed into coordinated response.

He said the mechanism had clearly defined roles for different stakeholders, both in the reporting, fact checking and response to issues.

“We are implementing this project now because we have seen an upsurge in the abuse and misuse of online and offline platforms for misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. For now, we are focusing mostly on the elections because that is the biggest story on everyone’s lips or screen,” Sifile said. “Of course we are also touching on other important issues, which are linked or related to the elections, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Hate speech and misinformation can raise alarm and trigger conflict that can set a community or even country on fire. We do not want that. Zambia is a peaceful country and we must not allow a situation where misinformation and hate speech are allowed to thrive causing a breach of our peace.”

Sifile said through the project, it was hoped that Panos can contribute to preventing those undesirable situations that may be triggered by reckless statements.
The mechanism is being implemented by Panos Institute Southern Africa, in collaboration with MISA Zambia and the Bloggers of Zambia, supported by the UNDP’s “Democracy Strengthening in Zambia” (DSZ) project and the UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance (JTF).

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