Nigeria, Google, Meta collaborate to protect election integrity

Solomon Chung, Abuja

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Ahead of the 2023 general election in Nigeria, tech and social media giants meta, owners of facebook, instagram and whatsaap and google have agreed to work with the Nigerian government to protect the integrity of the election.

Deliberating and agreeing on some of the areas and parameters to collaborate, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said with just 22 days to the elections, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of fake news and disinformation.

The Minister said the unscrupulous elements using the platforms use parody accounts, clone reputable media platforms and deep fakes to perpetrate their nefarious activities.

The Minister mentioned areas of collaboration the government wants from the tech giants.

He requested that the Ministry of Information staff should be on board so they can flag posts that constitute fake news and disinformation, with a view to having such flagged posts brought down.
Also close workings with security agencies to bring down posts capable of inciting violence

He said election results not originating from official sources should be flagged as unverified and for the tech giants to make posts from official channels, like the Ministry of Information and Culture, INEC, National Orientation Agency, etc prominent on their platforms.

’These are crucial elections, and Mr. President has consistently assured the nation and the international community that he would do everything possible to ensure a free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. The electoral body, INEC,security agencies and all those concerned have also assured that they will do their best to ensure the success of the elections.

Now, with just 22 days to the elections, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of fake news and disinformation by those who are bent on hindering the success of the elections and throwing the nation into crisis.’’

For example, candidates’ campaign speeches are doctored to portray them in 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, with the aim of making 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. These actions, if executed, will go a long way in checking the proliferation of fake news and disinformation on social media ahead,
during and after the elections.’’

It is no longer news that the use of social media is now a critical factor in national elections, and no nation, including Nigeria, is immune.

With a predominantly youthful population, Nigeria ranks among the countries with the highest users of the various social media platforms, especially Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

However, the use, or misuse, of these platforms is therefore of great concern to all stakeholders in the elections.

It was against this backdrop that the Minister invited the tech giants so that they can all jointly work to ensure a responsible use of these platforms before, during and after the polls.

The representative of Google at the meeting, Dawn Dimowo, who manages Government Affairs and Public Policy, pledged the readiness of the platform to work with other stakeholders to ensure the credibility of the elections.

She said 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, said 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 contents to them directly.

 

N.O

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