UNDP and Partners Handover iVerify Platform to Local Voices Liberia

Monrovia – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday, April 8, handed over the iVerify Platform to Local Voices Liberia with a strong call to ensure national ownership and sustainability. The tool is designed for quick fact-checking and verification of published information.

“iVerify effectively helped address the challenges of misinformation and disinformation during the 2023 elections using the iVerify platform,” said Lenka Homolkova, UNDP Chief Technical Advisor of the Liberia Electoral Support Project (LESP)

Homolkova noted that debunking fake news and misinformation contributes to increasing accountability and trust in the media and contributes to the democratic processes.

“It is a tool which is getting more and more attention in elections. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is acknowledged and seen as contributing to election integrity. When content was flagged as false by Local voices, it was taken down from social media. I saw these instances during the elections. And iVerify is a good tool because nobody wants to be seen as lying or spreading false information. So, flagging false content helped during the 2023 general elections,” CTA Homolkova said.

The iVerify system, supported by UNDP and partners- Sweden, Ireland, and the European Union supported national stakeholders in identifying and mitigating issues relating to hate speech and mis/disinformation in the 2023 general elections in Liberia.

Citizens and external partners used the platform utilizing available tip lines to identify and report disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech. The system then analyses or fact-checks the content through a 3-step verification process.

CTA Homolkova recounted that UNDP and partners also supported Local Voices in training fact-checkers, spreading awareness about the tool, and how people can report issues of misinformation/disinformation and refer them to local voices for fact-checking.

She called for enhanced collaboration between Local Voices and national and international actors, including the National Elections Commission and the media to combat misinformation and disinformation.

Homolkova extolled UNDP partners Sweden, Ireland, the EU, and Internews for the support to the iVerify initiative.

Lien Bach, Chief of Party of Internews, said the introduction of iVerify in Liberia was grounded in the idea of promoting responsible and factual dissemination of information. 

“iVerify effectively provided the tool for robust verification and clarification of information during the elections. Combating dis/misinformation and hate speech should be a continuous campaign,” she demanded.

Representing the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the Deputy Executive Director for Administration Samuel Cole thanked UNDP and its partners for initiating and supporting iVerify, and recalled how the tool helped the commission and other stakeholders to combat misinformation and disinformation during the 2023 General Elections. 

“iVerify provided a platform for the speedy and accurate verification of information during the elections. The tool was very indispensable to NEC as attempts to deliberately misinform the public and discredit the commission and the electoral process were effectively fact-checked by Local Voices and the findings disseminated thus promoting public confidence in NEC and the process,” Mr. Cole noted.

Reinforcing the impact of the iVerify tool, Anna Brzozowskwa, Governance Team Lead of the European Union delegation, appreciated the efforts, cooperation, and coordination of all election stakeholders and encouraged increased collaboration between newspapers, fact-checkers, NEC, and other stakeholders. “Elections are essential moments and countering disinformation, and misinformation is very critical. The threats related to false information, misinformation, and disinformation are common. It is not a unique feature to Liberia,” Brzozowskwa noted.

The EU, she said, is quite impressed with the implementation of iVerify and extolled the government for the level of freedom which ensured the amicable operation of the platform. Ms. Brzozowskwa also urged reinforcement of the campaign to combat disinformation against women’s participation in elections, which she observed was also an element in the 2023 elections.

Nikolina Stalhand, Program Officer, Democracy and Human Rights of the Embassy of Sweden said the iVerify platform contributed to the integrity of the election.

“Countries around the world are applauding Liberia for a successful election last year. And I think it is important to remember that this didn’t just happen as an accident. Many people were involved in achieving this and the success of the elections was of course linked to combating misinformation and disinformation,” Ms. Stalhand said.

Although the elections are over, she urged Local Voices to sustain the platform, noting that there were still other issues of misinformation and disinformation that could be flagged, and fact-checked.

Michael Johannes, Elections Team Lead of USAID Liberia thank UNDP and partners and local voices for the credible work during the elections.

“It was a great team effort, and we were impressed. We want to thank you all. We look forward to continuing the work with local voices. Now the hard work begins. The country needs to make policy changes. They need to make reforms, and the work of iVerify and local voices would be of utmost importance,” Mr. Johannes said.

Making a presentation on the iVerify platform and its contribution to peace during the 2023 general elections, Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, Executive Director of Local Voices, said the iVerify tool revolutionized fact-checking by ensuring speed and accuracy.

“Before iVerify, we relied on normal media monitoring, which was challenging. We had to manually follow all the different Facebook pages and newspapers,” he said. Senkpeni appealed for continuous support to keep the platform operational.

“We need funding to keep this work going. We cannot just have fact-checking in elections here. Elections are periodic events. We need to continue fast-checking even after the elections. We are happy that we have this platform. We have built the foundation. We need support to consistently sustain these efforts or else all the gains will be reversed,” he added.

During the elections, iVerify tracked 219 claims of disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech using the system (WhatsApp tipline) and other claims tracking mechanisms. Local Voices fact-checked and published 51 fact-check reports and conducted training for journalists and mobile fact-checkers on the use of the iVerify tool. Local Voices also produced a weekly radio program on OK FM to promote the iVerify system and counter election disinformation.

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