Algeria: Decisive presidential election facing social networks’ challenges

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Algeria – A crucial and decisive political rendez-vous is looming large in Algeria. While the presidential election has been postponed twice (18 April and 4 July), that of December 12 begins to take shape, especially as opposition figures, like Ali Benflis, have submitted their candidacy files, announcing their participation in this race.

 

In the face of such an important election for the country’s future, we may rise a sensitive question with respect to the role played by social networks for the benefits of both the candidates and the National Independent Electoral Authority, which organizes for the first time this presidential election.
In Algeria, Facebook is, largely, the most used social network. There are more than 20 million Algerians subscribing to Mark Zuckerberg’s network. February 22’hirak was launched via this platform. A call pushed millions of Algerian people to take into the streets of the biggest cities, demanding a change of the political system. Since that time, social networks, Facebook in the lead, played a crucial role in elaborating the slogans, the claims and even the nature of the various protest actions.
For example, it is on the Facebook page of the National Committee for the release of detainees (CNLD) that the operation “El-Mahraz”, which consists of making noise from 20:00 to 20:30 with kitchen utensils, was initiated. This operation has been widely followed the last two Thursdays.
However, Facebook, like any other social network, can be misused by some for misinformation or even manipulation. “Facebook has become a real battlefield and rather a distorting mirror of the political field of expression in Algeria. Its use has become clivant as the most extreme voices are the most visible unfortunately,” Akram Kharief, Journalist and Director of the Mena Défense website, specialized in security information told Alg24.
“We have seen, for example,” says Kharief, the emptiness of the real political game where candidates for high-profile Facebook applications with pages containing hundreds of thousands of profiles and supported by pages with millions of subscribers have failed to collect 50,000 signatures, I speak in particular of the candidates having abandoned as Oussama Wahid or Bennaamane.
Regarding misinformation, the Director of Mena-Defense believes that “no country in the world is able to fight the fake news on social networks. In Algeria the situation is aggravated by the lack of resources of the press in general and the proliferation of electronic titles.The other aggravating factor is the official lack of official facebook and the impossibility of referring to institutions.
For his part, Karim Khelouiati, an expert in information security strategy, believes that “it is possible to bring out a database of undecided people to opt for one candidate or another. After being filtered, a candidate can exploit it to send targeted messages. ” For him, it is even possible to know the preferences of these people, via their search history, and adapt the messages of persuasion to send them.
It is, thus, clear that the surfer becomes both a target for indoctrination and even the instrument of indoctrination, by spreading and sharing the messages of persuasion he receives. On the other hand, Facebook has become in Algeria a field where neither law nor deontology have a place, in front of a virtual absence of the tools of fact-checking and checking of the contents relayed on the social networks.
Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg said in a recent statement, “The elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has also changed.” The boss of the social network also claimed that his company had developed new programs based on previous measures to prevent electoral interference.
For observers, what is taking place is the result of a reliable and viable interaction between the authorities and the Facebook administration. To this day, this social network whose scale is terrifying, has no official presence or office in Algeria at the time, when, as was the case in Tunisia, the platform’s administration should take measures to limit misinformation and manipulation on the eve of a crucial and decisive presidential election for the future of an entire people.

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