DA Looks Forward To A Historic Meeting In Parliament With Facebook.

By Phumzile Mavimbela

The Democratic Alliance is set to meet with Facebook this has been formally confirmed by the Communications and Digital Technologies Committee. The meeting is set to take place on 25 May 2021. Similar invitations have been sent to other big tech giants – Google and Twitter. The DA has been at the forefront of tackling the issue of disinformation and matters related to the digital transformation of South Africa and we are pleased that the committee is giving the matter the importance it deserves.

Facebook’s agreement to the meeting is historic and a source of pride for South Africa as a first in Africa, and one of a few countries in the world to successfully secure a meeting with Facebook. No doubt, the knowledge of the work the DA did in holding Bell Pottinger accountable provided an indication of the seriousness the party takes matters relating to disinformation.

We commend Facebook for agreeing to the meeting which we hope will be constructive.

I first publicly requested on 15 February this year that Facebook be invited to meet with the committee and this was agreed to by fellow members of the committee. 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 Election. 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.

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 successfully 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. We will stand in opposition to any proposals that would curtail the right of South Africans to share their thoughts and opinions that fall under protected freedom of speech. 

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