By February 25th, Nigerians will go to the poll to elect their leaders. But the right of the eligible voters to cast their votes may be threatened if the assault of misinformation launched against the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, persists.
It’s a known fact that misinformation poses threat to election, as it is capable of influencing election results. And if not nipped in the bud, false information can mar election, fuel electoral violence and disrupt political activities in a country, as stakeholders had pointed out.
The electioneering period ushered in a spate of attacks on INEC’s offices in some part of the country. Apart from the violence, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said fake news top the list of the commission’s worry ahead of the election.
Yakubu expressed worry over how fake news could truncate the commission’s effort to be open and transparent throughout the election period during a strategic interactive meeting with editors in Lagos state, last December.
“Often, the intention of the purveyors of such news is to impugn the credibility of the election management body or its officials or to delegitimise elections,” the INEC boss said.
Having seen the need to lead the campaign against the spread of misinformation, as well as fight the scourge of fake news, especially on social media, FactCheckElections had restated its commitment to deploy necessary verification tools to give the fact to the public.
Our efforts to do this have seen us exposed a fake recruitment link in circulation on WhatsApp, posing as INEC recruitment portal, even before the commission publicly debunked it.
FactCheckElections observed a rise in misinformation targeted at the electoral body.
For instance, a video went viral claiming that registered voters can text the 9 digits code on their Permanent Voter Card to 8014 in order to know their polling unit address.
But FactCheckElections findings revealed that the 22-second video with the tag; Operation Know Your Polling Unit or Operation KYPU, was not from INEC.
Also, in late last year, a screenshot also circulated on WhatsApp with a false claim that INEC has extended its online voter registration.
The INEC boss however, urged: “The media has a big role to play. For our part, we will continue to be open and transparent; INEC does not believe in censorship. We have said consistently that the best antidote to fake news is greater openness and transparency.”
Our organisation’s commitment to ensure that misinformation does not influence election results, we will also be having a discussion with media experts at our forthcoming physical training to better train our fact-checkers.