Facebook’s misadventures in Africa: The world’s most popular social network is on the rocks in Africa. In addition to the tough competition with the Chinese Tiktok, there are accusations of encouraging the proliferation of propaganda activities. Meta is also in the middle of legal troubles in African courts. Quest for buzz for monetized audience?
Facebook’s misadventures in Africa are not new
In 2019, the BBC’s web journal headlined: Is Facebook undermining democracy in Africa? “Facebook is under fire in Africa for undermining democracy, with critics saying the social media giant has allowed its platform to be weaponised for co-ordinated misinformation campaigns”, wrote the journal.
In 2021, DW headlined: WhatsApp and Facebook outage sparks confusion in Africa. “Did God hack Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg, at least, said there was no hack at all. It came down to technical problems. His company is said to have lost $7 billion (€6 billion) as a result of the outage”, Wrote the german journal.
Those problems continue in 2023:
How TikTok makes Facebook run in Africa
TikTok is rapidly gaining popularity in Africa, with tens of millions of subscribers, putting pressure on Facebook (now Meta) to maintain its dominant position in the African market.
Although this number is far less than Facebook’s registrants on the continent, Meta is not willing to be surprised.
According to RFI, Meta has launched an initiative to support local influencers by organizing an online contest and training campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa.
These actions aim to create a positive online ecosystem where African influencers can express their creativity and generate revenue.
Influencers mean subscribers. The American company wants to seduce those who still attract visitors to its platform and to distinguish itself from TikTok considered as a childish entertainment application by its detractors.
The American giant also intends to improve the revenues of the latter and distinguish itself even more from its Chinese rival who neglects the influencers who make the popularity of the platform in Africa.
Meta also encourages content creators to adopt responsible influencer practices and works closely with local authorities to fight against abuse on its platforms. However, despite these efforts, the rapid growth of the Chinese app raises concerns for Meta.
To maintain its dominant position in Africa, Meta faces several challenges, including constant innovation and investment in local initiatives to meet the needs and expectations of African users.
Competing with TikTok will require sustained efforts and continued investments for Meta to maintain its presence on the African continent.
Swiss influencer floods Africa with pro-Russian propaganda
“Free Africa or death! We will win”, says Nathalie Yamb, 54, in her videos broadcast on the social networks of the American firm Meta. This Swiss-Cameroonian is one of the most followed influencers in French-speaking Africa.
Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, she has been attracting the attention of Washington and Paris for a few months. Her content is indeed getting closer and closer to pro-Russian propaganda.
Its speech is chilling. She calls the Russian invasion a “NATO-Russia war”, triggered by “the repeated aggression of the Americans and Europeans […] against the Russian people”. In May 2022, she also called the Ukrainians “gangrenous with neo-Nazis”. Two false statements.
Finally, just this week she praised “the inevitable death of Western hegemony” on a Moscow stage.
According to information from the FLA, France has “formally intervened with Bern to express its concern about her militancy”. This does not prevent her from continuing her propaganda from Switzerland. She now lives in Zug. After having been expelled from Ivory Coast in 2020, she affirms however that she has “no intention at all to stay in our country”. She co-founded an opposition party there in 2011.
Indeed, it is said to have links with the Afric project, developed by Wagner‘s boss, Evgeny Prigozhin. What is its objective? It can be found in the Power Point presentation of a Wagner agent seized in Libya: the promotion of the Russian agenda under the cover of a network of influencers. The funds for the project would come from “anonymous sources via cryptocurrencies.”
The US State Department thus describes her as “a key link” in Wagner’s boss’s network and reportedly warned about the influencer’s speeches in November 2022.
Facebook’s misadventures in Africa.
South Africa: On the run for a year, “the Facebook rapist” finally returned to prison
He had escaped by leaving a burnt corpse in his cell to make believe his own death. The South African murderer and rapist Thabo Bester was caught and put back in prison last Thursday. But the rocky case remains an embarrassment for the authorities.
Why did it take prison services several hours to respond on the day of the escape? Why didn’t the police have the rapist’s DNA when they identified the charred remains? And finally, why wasn’t the public informed that a serial criminal was on the loose?
In May 2022, a charred male body was found in Thabo Bester’s cell in Bloemfontein. Nicknamed the “Facebook Rapist” because he lured most of his victims by posing as a model recruiter, he had been sentenced in 2012 to life in prison for murder and rape.
The burned body is not his
At first, prison authorities believe he set himself on fire. In reality, the thirty-year-old prisoner escaped under circumstances that remain unclear. At the end of March, almost a year after the escape, the police revealed that according to DNA tests, the body in his cell was not his.
On Saturday, the South African government announced that the fugitive had been arrested in the Arusha region of Tanzania, near the Kenyan border, as he tried to leave the country with his South African partner and a Mozambican accomplice.
The story of this man has put a black mark on the reputation of Facebook in South Africa.
Kenyan justice stands up to Facebook
Facebook’s misadventures in Africa
Facebook’s misadventures in Africa: The East African judiciary is standing up to US tech giant Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company is in the dock this month in Kenya in three legal actions.
At the heart of the disputes: the largest content moderation office of Facebook in Africa, based in the capital Nairobi. The team of 260 regulators, hired by the American subcontractor Sama, covers ten languages (including English, Swahili and Amharic, among the most spoken in Africa) and an estimated population of 500 million people.
In a decision handed down on Monday, February 6, Kenyan judge Jacob Gakeri dismissed Facebook’s parent company, Meta, which was seeking to have a lawsuit filed by a former employee of its subcontractor Samasource Ltd. in the capital Nairobi dismissed.
The complaint by Daniel Motaung, a former local Facebook moderator, concerns working conditions that he describes as inhumane, even forced labor. He mentions unreasonable working hours, random remuneration, lack of right to union representation, but also the alleged endangerment of the mental health of workers, through traumatic exposure to content ranging from rape to beheadings and other tortures.
Mark Zuckerberg’s company argued that the employer in charge of assessing the publications was only a local subcontractor, which could answer to a Kenyan court in charge of labor market relations, unlike the American group, which, according to Meta, is outside the jurisdiction of Kenya, where it is not formally established. As a result of the judge’s ruling, Meta Platforms and its subsidiary Meta Platforms Ireland will be considered “full parties” to the case, which is scheduled to go to trial on March 8.
Meta is regularly accused of neglecting the human moderation of publications, using algorithms that do not filter hateful content enough. Less outdated in Africa than elsewhere, Facebook would react particularly slowly to the continent’s crises, especially in Ethiopia.
In addition to the procedure initiated by Daniel Motaung, Meta is the subject of a complaint from a Kenyan NGO and two Ethiopians, still before the Kenyan justice system. The plaintiffs allege that inflammatory speech was not only validated but encouraged on Facebook in the context of the deadly conflict in Tigray. Like the Rohingya refugees, in 2021 they are calling for the creation of a fund – this time of $1.6 billion – for the victims of hateful content.
Quest for buzz for monetized audience? Summoned to court this time, in East Africa, Facebook could no longer take refuge in the virtuality of metavers!