[important considerations for African Researchers] Facebook Content Policy Research Initiative-Request for Proposals March 15

Dear Listers,
It is my hope that interested African government agencies, researchers and institutions will recognize that content safety management is now an existential issue for this > $10 Billion Revenue company (with ~$164 Billion market cap) due to its own failure to foresee or mitigate the problem during early stages.

I believe that Facebook has certain structural deficiencies (which I will outline below) that African Government agencies, academic institutions and researchers can use as a basis for their own negotiating leverage- and such high-value leverage should not be thrown away (unless we are not serious about ending poverty).

The key point being that no offer/invitation by billion dollar MNCs should be accepted at face value without a proper understanding of the real direct/imputed commercial value of the research being proposed / invited;

The company’s top decision-makers should, IMO, be invited to sit at the table with government, institutional and researcher representatives to make a proper and more meaningful offer.

Facebook structural deficiencies:

– The company reportedly has very poor diversity ratios for a globally operating company that is very powerful in Africa (i.e. they have only ~1% black employees worldwide in technical roles, and less than 2% in management – mostly African Americans or naturalized immigrants I believe). Therefore the company has very little understanding of – or tangible commitment to – Africa.

This lack of multicultural diversity is turning out to be a major strategic blunder for them as it potentially has implications on their long-term commercial viability in grossly underrepresented areas e.g. Africa.

What they are now looking for, with respect to Africa, can only be obtained in Africa. This is very important.

RECOMMENDATION for African Researchers / institutions: Do not share your unique local cultural knowledge and insights for PEANUTS, or one-time gains (whereas the requesting company will benefit for many decades or more).

The company should pay both the researchers and the institutions a proper premium that reflects the real long term value of the local and cultural insights being offered – and the probable fact that they probably cannot obtain such insights anywhere else on this planet.

Smart institutions (and/or government agencies) will also request for a perpetual royalties clause (fixed amount or ratio) for whatever findings gets implemented – and a long term ability to claim (>20 years) to help fund ongoing research in other areas (or to incubate small businesses).

– I believe the company only has one office in Africa (Johannesburg) representing all of Africa’s 1.2 BILLION people (guessing ~<30 staff mostly low level, but the company can give clearer picture). It also appears like the top roles for Africa operate from their UK Office, effectively denying African governments PAYE taxes and economic gains of locally based employees. Because the decision makers are not based here, it is hard for them to genuinely empathise with local issues. Contrast with at least 3 offices, estimated > 1,000 high quality jobs in India (+ ~>5,000 Non-resident Indians in the US) and meaningful partnerships with India’s Indigenous IT consulting companies which I would estimate to be worth hundreds of millions in US dollars. I believe Facebook can give more precise numbers if requested.

Its plans for Nairobi’s “moderation center” does not appear to involve setting up a proper registered presence- in accordance with provisions of the Companies Act (the way Google and Microsoft have done) as it appears to be a wholly outsourced and strictly low level arrangement, to create dirty jobs that could impose a huge long-term health and safety burden for the country.

My guess is that the primary motivator for what appears to be their current potentially illegal business operation in Kenya (i.e. they are selling ads in Kenya on behalf of local businesses but don’t seem to be registered locally e.g. contrary to requirements for registration of foreign companies in section 974 of the Companies Act) is aggressive tax avoidance because the company has enough resources to do the right thing.

Meanwhile thousands of our highly skilled Technology graduates are jobless.
RECOMMENDATION for African Researchers / institutions: Silicon Valley companies, like Facebook, should be asked to show meaningful commitment to Africa by establishing at least one locally staffed engineering, support and management office in each of the different economic blocks (SADC / ECOWAS / EAC etc) and to start paying local taxes in the chosen host country. They should offer high quality and regular internships to our computer science students in universities.

– The company reportedly relies on addiction technology to boost engagement, retention and ad revenues.

To mitigate the consequences, the company should commit to funding the establishment and operation of at least one regional mental health research center in each economic block to host researchers from African Universities on a rotating and collaborative basis.

Social media firms should also contribute funds annually to an attention resource diversion compensation kitty in each African country – which can be used to finance tax subsidies to compensate local employers (especially SMEs) whose employees’ attention has been stolen / grabbed by addiction algorithms during work hours without consent from the employer.

They also need to fund a diversion of attention from intellectual pursuits compensation kitty to help fund solutions to the long term macro-economic problems created when learner’s attention are grabbed by the use of addiction forming algorithms.

Companies that use addiction technology should also be requested to finance the set up and operation of world-class technology addiction rehabilitation centers in each and every African country (for both minors and adults). They should also pay additional sin tax – like tobacco and alcohol companies to fund health sector initiatives.

Image does not put food on the table. We need to start insisting that foreign companies offer tangible, meaningful and genuine win-win commercial and social engagement in Africa (incidentally the world’s 8th largest economy by GDP).

I leave you with a proverb: If you want people to buy your cows, do not give them milk for free (or for peanuts)..

Thinking loud. Share widely to stimulate some good debates across the continent. ūüôā

Patrick A. M. Maina[Independent  Public Policy Analyst РIndigenous Innovations]

On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 7:49:34 PM GMT+3, Ebele Okobi via kictanet <kictanet@lists.kictanet.or.ke> wrote:


As part of our efforts to expand engagement with the academic community and to create more awareness of and engagement related to content policy development and enforcement, Facebook has developed the ‚ÄúContent Policy Research Initiative‚ÄĚ to support external research. The research topic areas of focus for these meetings and the call for proposals (found¬†here) are focused on:

– Defining and moderating hateful content
– Preventing offline harm from dangerous organizations/groups


Details on the call for proposals:

·  Proposals should be between $50-100K (USD) and executed over 12 months

·   Proposals should be 2-3 pages are due by March 15

·  It is open to applicants worldwide from academic and/or research institutions that are eligible for research funding (this means it means many think tanks and some civil society groups may be eligible)

· The call is global and we are striving for a geographic and topical diversity

·  Emerging Scholars are encouraged to apply

We are especially keen to receive proposals from across Africa, so I’m eager to help facilitate this. Do let me know if there are any questions.

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