By Alfred Koroma
The Sierra Leone of the Journalists (SLAJ) and the Independent Radio Network (IRN) has yesterday, 5th April launched SLAJ-iVerify, a facts-checking platform to counter disinformation and misinformation before, during and after the June general election in Sierra Leone.
The fake news debunking platform will use a combination of machine learning and human intervention to identify and verify content posted on social media platforms, blogs, and from political activities. Once content is verified, it will be published on the platform, providing citizens and even journalists with access to credible information. IRN will also be broadcasting verified content from the platform to the public through its radio network.
SLAJ-iVerify is designed mainly to promote transparency and ensure that the public is well-informed during the electoral process through increase access to credible information around the elections, SLAJ Vice President, Sahr James Bangah said.
The project which is scheduled to last for nine months is supported by UNDP, BBC Media Action and other partners.
Delivering a keynote address, UN Resident Coordinator, Babatunde Ahonsi described the launch of SLAJ-iVerify platform as a milestone in underlining and reemphasizing joint commitment and collective responsibility to strengthen information integrity.
The UN Diplomat acknowledged the proliferation of hate speech on social media by political rivals which he says has the potential to create an irreversible ethno-regional divide and cause unrest in Sierra Leone.
“As the country move towards general elections in June this year, misinformation, disinformation and hate speech remain a major challenge, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Ahonsi said, explaining that the advance of the internet, social media and Artificial intelligence has contributed to inclusion, transparency and participation of citizens in governance, but at the same time carries risks and challenges to the integrity of the information landscape with ramifications on democratic processes.
As the UN has developed the iVerify tool to facilitate identification and fact-checking of potential disinformation, misinformation and hate speech, the fight against disinformation, misinformation and hate speech remains a shared responsibility of all citizens and non-citizens, state and non-state actors, representatives of government institutions, religious leaders and political leaders, through the promotion of political tolerance and communication, he added. “This is particularly important in elections times, as information travels from social media to radio channels and to the general public.”