The Federal Government of Nigeria has signed agreements with tech giants, Meta and Google to tackle the menace of fake news and protect the integrity of the forthcoming general elections. The agreements were reached at a Friday meeting between the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and representatives of Meta and Google.
At the meeting which was at the instance of the minister, the tech giants agreed to comply with four demands by the federal government. These include an agreement to work with the government in flagging and bringing down posts that constituted fake news and disinformation on their platforms.
They also agreed to:
- Work with the security agencies to bring down posts capable of inciting violence before, during, and after the elections.
- It was also agreed that election results not originating from official sources, should be flagged as unverified by the tech giants’
- They also agreed to make posts from official channels, like the Ministry of Information and Culture, INEC, National Orientation Agency, etc., prominent on their platforms.
Concerns over fake news: Earlier, the minister underscored the importance of the elections to the country and the assurance by President Muhammadu Buhari to the nation and the international community on free, fair, credible, and peaceful polls.
He also noted that the use of social media was a critical factor in national elections of countries, including Nigeria with a predominantly youthful population. Mohammed, however, expressed concern that 22 days to the elections, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of fake news and disinformation in the social media platforms. The Minister said:
- “There has been a gross abuse of social media platforms to purvey fake news and disinformation ahead of the elections. These unscrupulous people are resorting to the use of parody accounts, cloning of 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 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 these 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.
- “We have therefore invited you, platform owners, here so we can work together to reduce these negative tendencies before, during and after the forthcoming elections”.
Before Friday’s agreement with the Nigerian government Meta, which is the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp had last November announced that it has set up a cross-functional team spread across the world to monitor posts by Nigerians pre, during, and post-2023 elections in the country, especially on both Facebook and Instagram.