Facebook urged to clean up Libya’s fractious presidential contest

Facebook responds to candidate's claim that rivals are using it to intimidate voters and sow division

Aref Nayed, presidential candidate and former ambassador to the UAE, accused Libyan politicians of using Facebook and Clubhouse to intimidate members of the country’s electoral commission. Christopher Pike / The National
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A candidate in Libya’s coming presidential election has called on Facebook and other social media platforms to clean up information being shared about a race he says is overshadowed by populists, vote-buying and rule-breaking.

Without identifying his rivals by name, presidential aspirant Aref Nayed accused Libyan politicians of using such forums as Facebook and Clubhouse to sow division and intimidate members of the country’s electoral commission.

“This kind of behaviour should not be tolerated. Platforms like Facebook should monitor for such threatening discourse and should shut down these people,” Mr Nayed told a US think tank on Thursday.

“International monitoring and implementation of sanctions against people who tried to sabotage them are necessary in order to have timely, transparent, clean and peaceful elections.”

A Facebook spokesman said independent fact-checkers were already assessing content in Libya and warning users about fake news.

"We have a dedicated team with experts in misinformation and hate speech working to stop abuse on our platforms in the lead up to, during and after the elections in Libya," the Facebook representative told The National.

"We also have content reviewers from Libya to help us remove harmful content, as well as proactive detection technology to help us catch violating content at scale."

Mr Nayed, a former Libyan ambassador to the UAE, businessman and head of the liberal Ihya Libya party, is one of a growing list of presidential candidates for the first round of voting set for December 24.

Others include Fathi Bashagha, a former minister; Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, son of the country’s ousted leader who is wanted by the International Criminal Court; and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, an eastern-based army commander who is being sued in the US over civilian deaths.

The election is part of the country’s UN-backed transition following a decade of war and chaos. Still, the vote faces growing uncertainty even after high-level talks in Paris last week aimed at buttressing the process.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a Nato-backed uprising toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was split for years between a government in the east and a UN-backed administration in the capital Tripoli, aided by militias.

Each side was supported by mercenaries and forces from Turkey, Russia, Syria and other powers.

Mr Nayed, who claims he wants to rebuild Libya as a modern, pluralist society free of foreign forces in which human rights violators are held accountable, said the North African country faces an uphill struggle.

“There is a lot of very hard work that has to be done on the nuts and bolts of the economy, to introduce prosperity for everyone, instead of a very small elite stealing all the revenue of the country and leaving everybody else hungry,” he said.

Updated: November 19, 2021, 6:34 PM