THEME: Addressing Digital Threats to Elections in Cameroon: Counter strategies against Mis/disinformation during electoral period
On 15 February 2023, the “stories killers” investigative report by the Forbidden Stories consortium was revealed to the general public. It sheds light on the actions of a clandestine Israeli company specialising in influencing social media, which is said to have manipulated dozens of elections, particularly in Africa. Following the work of a team of journalists over several years, the world discovers the modus operandi of “Team Jorge”, which carried out more than twenty campaigns of disinformation on behalf of governments, politicians, companies and wealthy individuals in some African countries. Specialising in disinformation, cyber-espionage and the propagation of false narratives, Team Jorge has long been involved in creating fake accounts on social media, forging documents and marketing operations to restore the tarnished image of a leader or company. It also provides large-scale influence campaigns, personalised deep fakes and the placement of articles by recruiting journalists who have a major influence on the course of elections.
Nigeria in 2015 and Kenya in 2017 are perfect illustrations of how organisations like Cambridge Analytica can influence elections in Africa via Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. In a fragile context where digital access is developing in Africa and internet use is increasingly dynamic in Cameroon with the popularisation of the use of AI and the advent of influential social media such as Tik Tok, the presidential elections scheduled for 2025 appear to be a potential threat to building peace and restoring social stability.
The experience of the 2018 socio-political crisis justifies these fears; During the presidential elections, internet users were inundated by streams of fake news and hate speech, which further polarised social divisions and exacerbated socio-political and tribal tensions. To prevent misinformation and influence campaigns from influencing public debate and social cohesion, #defyhatenow via its Africa Fact-checking Fellowship”- #AFFCameroon programme is organising the 2nd edition of the All #AFFCameroon conference in the November 30th to December 1st, 2023, the maiden edition of the Conference sought to address the underlying factors leading to the proliferation of Hatespeech, generally taking the form of mis-disinformation both online and offline. This year, the two-day gathering seeks to mobilize relevant stakeholders in view of working towards socio-political stability, good governance, democracy and peace in Cameroon during the pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral periods. This conference is therefore intended to be a starting point for a series of activities that will be carried out in the run-up to the elections in Cameroon in 2025, with the aim of proposing more effective preventive and reactive responses to guide future efforts to protect electoral integrity and prevent electoral violence.
Launched in January 2022, the Africa Fact-checking Fellowship– #AFFCameroon aims to promote fact-checking, data journalism and digital rights to journalists, bloggers and content creators in Africa. This initiative comes in an environment marked by a proliferation of misleading statements, fabrication of information, photos, videos, deepfake, troll sharing, creation of fake accounts, online scams, slanderous, hateful and dangerous discourse on social media targeting individuals and/or inter-ethnic communities.
To date, about 150 Fellowsliving and operating actively in eight out of the ten of Cameroon have received technical, educational and functional support for advanced information verification. The aim is to create a critical mass of fact-checkers, information fighters, online and offline hate speech and digital rights defenders.
To ensure that the work of these news professionals has a greater impact on peace, it is therefore important on one hand to combine the efforts of different stakeholders in society; and on the other hand to promote factchecking practices and media and information literacy to a wider audience (particularly within public and private organisations and institutions) with the aim of improving governance and restoring social trust. Combating disinformation is now a key issue in promoting and preserving freedom of the press and expression, promoting democracy and good governance based on Open Governance, and promoting the responsible use of ICTs for harmonious and sustainable development.
The multistakeholder meeting aims to draw lessons from past experience in identifying digital threats posed by mis-disinformation and hate speech to elections in Cameroon and Africa, in order to develop evidence-based strategic guidance on how to respond more effectively in future elections.
1 Bring together all the Fellows from #AFFCameroon Cohort 1 to 8, to collectively define new perspectives for coordinated actions in the fight against disinformation in a meaningful way by collaborating with public and private institutions.
2 Raise awareness and increase the commitment of public authorities, organisations and corporations in the fight against disinformation.
3 Initiate an action plan for a coordinated response to disinformation, enabling joint responses to be defined between the various actors and stakeholders.
4 Share new ideas and practices to advance fact-checking in Cameroon and Africa to better combat disinformation and online hate speech during election periods.
5 Reduce the gap between perceptions and the reality observed on the ground and the challenges of disinformation on peace.
6 Promote media and information literacy.
The ALL AFFCameroon Conference will be held from 30 November to 01 December 2023 at the Yaounde Conference Center Palais des Congrès in Yaoundé.
The “ALL AFFCameroon Conference” will be divided into different sessions: plenary round tables and presentations.
– Public and private institutions, in particular ELECAM, the Senate, the National Assembly and communal and religious representatives.
– Political parties
– Diplomatic missions and international chancelleries
– International and regional organisations
– Civil society organisations
– Mainstream and online media professionals and associations
– Representatives of the Diaspora
– Representatives of digital platforms.
– Fellows #AFFCameroon
– The existence of a synergy of actions between all #AFFCameroon fellows
– Collaboration between organisations/institutions and #AFFCameroon fellows to combat misinformation (integration of fellows into communication units)
– The creation of a platform for exchange and collaboration between ELECAM, political parties, the media and fact-checkers.
– The opening of anti-disinformation units within the organisations/institutions invited.
– The participation of some 300 actors directly or indirectly concerned with issues of disinformation and hate speech.
– Advocacy with public authorities to combat misinformation more effectively and promote greater access to information.
– Crisis communication and misinformation within the media
– Elections, media and political parties
– Communication campaigns vs. influencer campaigns
– Elections, good governance and information
– Community actors players, social media networks and social cohesion
– Social media networks, influence and hate speech
– Diaspora, disinformation and political stability
– Disinformation and inter-community and interfaith religious dialogue
– Media and information literacy and elections
– The contribution of digital platforms during elections in Africa.
– Strategy to combat disinformation: the place of history, culture and religion.
– Funding and support for local fact-checking initiatives
Communication for this event will be twofold:
– Digital communication via the various online channels of #defyhatenow, #defyhatenow_WCA, Civic Cameroon and partners.
– Traditional communication via radio and television reports and publishing articles in the main print media.
Hashtags: #AFFConf2023 #AFFCameroon #Tech4Peace #Factchecking #ThinkB4UClick #HateFreeCameroon #defyhatenow #UnCamerounSansHaine #SafeDigitalSpaces #ActionContreIntox #ElectionsSansDesinfox