In its bid to curb the menace of fake news during the 2023 general election, the Federal government charged the managers of social media platforms to checkmate the spread of fake news and disinformation on their platforms.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Friday in Abuja when he met with representatives of Meta and Google, which owns YouTube and other platforms.
Speaking, the minister maintained that Nigeria, with a predominantly youthful population, ranks among the countries with the highest number of users of the various social media platforms, especially Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
The minister stressed that influencers of fake news and disinformation use Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter account to circulate fake news which is capable of instigating electoral violence.
He emphasized that with 22 days to the election, there had been a noticeable increase in the use of fake news and disinformation by purveyors of fake news.
He said, “now with just 22 days to the election, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of fake news and information by those who are bent on hindering the success of the elections.”
He noted that the ministry had summoned the meeting because the use or misuse of the platforms had become a great concern to all stakeholders in the elections, so they don’t become the platforms of choice for purveyors of fake news and disinformation.
“The government had noticed how some unscrupulous people were using parody accounts, cloning reputable media platforms, and the use of deep fakes to carry out their nefarious activities.
“For example, candidates’ campaign speeches are doctored to portray them in a bad light, video clips and pictures of campaign rallies are tampered with to make them look poorly attended; fake or unscientific opinion polls are concocted.
“While threats of violence in certain parts of the country are exaggerated – all of which are then circulated via social media to a wide audience, to make their target candidates look bad, influencing public perception or even suppressing votes in certain areas. In other words, there has been a gross abuse of social media platforms to purvey fake news and disinformation ahead of the elections,” he said.
He charged the two tech giants to onboard designated officials of the ministry on their platforms so they can flag posts that constitute fake news and disinformation, to have such flagged posts brought down.
He enjoined them to work with the security agencies to bring down posts capable of inciting violence. He also requested that election results not originating from official sources should be flagged as unverified.
He added that the platform owners should post from official channels, like the Ministry of Information and Culture, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Orientation Agency (NOA), and others prominent on their platforms.
The Manager, of Government Affairs and Public Policy, at Google, Dawn Dimowo, pledged the readiness of the platform to work with other stakeholders to ensure the credibility of the elections.
She stressed that Google had trained about 6,000 journalists in addition to engaging and expanding the scope of fact-checking platforms such as Dubawa to identify and flag fake news.
On her part, Meta’s Head of Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze, noted that the organization has set up an Election Protection Operating Centre, which has between 60 and 80 people who are working round-the-clock to ensure their platforms are not used to discredit the elections.
She said Meta had also instituted internal mechanisms, such as WhatsApp Messages Sending Limits, in addition to making it possible for people to report problematic content to them directly.
Like FG Like Factcheck Election
Not only the Federal government is wary of fake information and the thirst for truthfulness and transparency ahead of the forthcoming 2023 general election. This urge birthed an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit fact-checking platform, FactCheckElections.
Factcheck Elections which aimed to verify claims and debunk fake news about electoral activities in Nigeria using research, data, and technological tools has debunked several fake information aimed at sabotaging the forthcoming elections.
Factcheck Elections has also engaged stakeholders on the effects of misinformation by purveyors on the processes of the election and related penalties for spreading fake news.
Recently, it trained students, journalists, civic society organisations, and fact-checkers in debunking fake information during elections.