Ahead of the local government elections in October, the DA wants Facebook to outline to South Africans what steps it will be taking to tackle the harmful effects of misinformation and fake news on its platform.
DA MP Phumzile van Damme on Thursday confirmed Facebook will be appearing before parliament’s portfolio committee on communications and digital technologies on 25 May 2021 following a request by the party.
“The reason for inviting Facebook was with the view of ascertaining what steps the tech giant will be taking in tackling harmful misinformation, particularly as we inch towards the 2021 local government elections. Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation. We would like to see the same done for South Africa,” Van Damme said in a statement.
The meeting with Facebook is said to be historic because it is the first time Facebook has agreed to appear before a parliamentary committee on the African continent. Similar invitations have also been sent to other major tech companies like Google and Twitter.
While commending Facebook for agreeing to attend, Van Damme said she hoped the meeting would be constructive.
She said the DA had been at the forefront of addressing the issue of disinformation and matters related to digital transformation in South Africa and the party was pleased the committee was giving the issue the importance it deserves.
Paying local media outlets for content
The DA also wants Facebook and other social media sites to consider paying local media companies for carrying their content.
This follows the historic passing of a law in Australia in February that requires digital platforms like Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results.
“Of importance is also the protection of the private data of South African users of Facebook-owned platforms as well as the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently implemented in Australia.
“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.
The DA said it would oppose any proposals that curtail the rights of South Africans to share their thoughts and opinions that fall under protected freedom of speech.
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