Twitter seems to be the new hub for the spread of misinformation ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 election. With millions of Nigerians said to be using the microblogging platform, government officials, politicians, influencers and ordinary citizens have assessed that a single tweet can be massively engaged as Nigerians are said to spend about 3 hours to 30 minutes on the platform. This number has translated into how political office aspirants have taken to Twitter to disseminate information to the public.
But not only do hopeful candidates share information on Twitter, but have also been caught sharing fake news about one another.
For instance, to think that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and minister of the ruling government would share fake news about an opposition party’s candidate is beyond reasoning. But surprisingly, on August 22, Festus Keyamo, the official spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council shared fake news about the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
However, the spread of misinformation does not only emanate from politicians. It’s either an assumed supporter of a candidate is sharing unverifiable news about an opposition, or candidates themselves are sharing misleading figures to ostensibly convince the Nigerian Twitter users of their capabilities.
An instance of citizens sharing false news is when a tweep falsely claims that Reno Omokri, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party decamped to the opposition APC.
Another example is when Labour Party’s Peter Obi incorrectly claimed in a post on Twitter that Nigeria has “over 84 million hectares of arable land. Barely 40% of this arable land is cultivated today.”
FactCheckElections observed that the Twitter space capture almost all active participants in the forthcoming election including the electoral body, politicians, youths, influencers etc.
Parody Accounts, Peddlers of Fake News
While politicians see Twitter as a medium to share information, sometimes, some users create parody accounts and use them to share misinformation.
At the time, a vice presidential candidate had said: “Impostors had right from the inception of the various social media platforms opened accounts in my name without my knowledge or approval. I wrote several complaints accordingly, which were never attended to satisfactorily”.
“Complaints about the fake accounts have been duly lodged and registered with the relevant host platforms, while I wait and continue to suffer the consequences of mischievous and evil postings done by others falsely in my name,” he had said.
Ordinarily, a search on Twitter for the handle of any political bigwig usually display a number of accounts. This has in turn, except in some few cases, led to the spread of false information without the public knowing a personality’s real account.
A report detailed how parody accounts are fueling misinformation ahead of the election. This, election observers told FactCheckElections, is worrisome.*
A Trend of Doctored Videos & Pictures
Since the campaign kicked-off, political office aspirants have been attending several meetings to consult and discuss with respected public figures across the country in an obvious attempt to get their endorsement.
To give the mission a thrust, some politicians’ supporters have been manipulating videos and pictures of influential individuals in a way to show that these respected people endorse a candidate.
For example, a doctored video went viral on social media that Hollywood stars endorsed Peter Obi.
Twitter influencers and celebrities play a critical role in determining who wins an election. This is largely due to their position as opinion leaders who have the fame and platform to influence or convince their followers on who they should vote for.
According to DataReportal’s July 2022 report, social media activities, the most common medium of exchange and discussion between celebrities and their fans (aged 16 to 64) were highest on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tiktok, and others. This goes a long way to confirm how important these influencers and celebrities are important as far as the general elections is concerned.
As we approach the general elections, many influencers and celebrities cutting across different fields in Nigeria are at the forefront of campaigns for their preferred candidates and political education of voters, a large number of them who are against the current APC administration and the main opposition party PDP are rooting for Labour Party’s Peter Obi.
However, while these influencers and celebrities are at spreading the gospel of their preferred candidates to their followers, they tend to misinform them intentionally or unintentionally. In recent time we’ve witnessed this trend. An example of this is the claim by Charles Oputa, also known as Charly Boy that leading Hollywood celebrities endorsed Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), ahead of the 2023 elections.
Another example is a social media posts made by Dele Momodu and Reno Omokri, who are both supporters of PDP. The posts claimed that Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, asked APC’s Presidential Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to withdraw his presidential ambition due to old age.
With the stage getting set to elect new sets of leaders that will manage the affairs of this nation for the next four years, it’s no gainsaying that Twitter will play a major role in shaping the outcome of the general elections especially the presidential election.
That being said it’s important that as a voter or Twitter user, you should be weary of the information you consume in this ‘last days’, ensure you properly check whatever piece of information you come across online either in form of text, video or audio, if not sure of the source, do not share!
We also acknowledge the great work done by influencers and celebrities as regards sensitising their followers on the need to pick up their PVCs and vote on election day but we appeal to them to tread caution when sharing information that seeks to sell their preferred candidates.
Finally, as a note of warning, social media users, voters and influencers should note that sharing false information is punishable under the Electoral Act 2022 as violators will either pay a fine of N3 Million or spend 2 years in jail.