By Olasupo Abideen
Just a few days ago, news about the so-called 60-day extension of Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was making the rounds in major newspapers, including platforms that built their reputation and credibility over the years. This generated a certain level of hysteria among Nigerians and even some renowned civil society organizations reacted to the news which turned out to be untrue. However, this is contrary to official information from the Commission through its National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, who confirmed that the CVR will be extended for at least another 30 days, but without providing a specific timetable or additional information. .
While there are conversations surrounding the extension of the TRC in various quarters, the latest was led by the House of Representatives Committee on INEC and Election Issues which pushed a motion for the extension of the 60-day exercise. However, the commission has yet to officially announce any extension before it becomes a new trend. Unfortunately, no matter how close and “credible” the platform that reported it is, to the extent that it is fake, it is labeled as fake news and this can undoubtedly affect the process. In fact, this cannot be differentiated from another similar fake news that only made the rounds forty-eight (48 hours) before the just-concluded gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State , alleging the disqualification of All Progressive Congress candidate Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji from running in the just-concluded Ekiti Governor’s election. Although the Federal High Court itself ultimately “debunked the existence of such a case throughout its jurisdiction and made the court order as alleged”, the story may have caused the candidate its own prejudice. who turned out to be the eventual winner of the election.
Although this is one of the most delicate and complicated periods of Nigeria’s democratic dispensation, the election period is usually engulfed in unconfirmed false reports that tend to undermine the process. In June 2018, a sitting governor of Ekiti State practically “throttled” the state radio station to announce false results to the public even before the electoral commission announced the official results. This heated up the political regime and led to the indefinite closure of the station.
Scenarios abound in which individuals and groups use their social media platforms to peddle false information about the electoral process, malfeasance, election violence, and even false election results. This has continued to aggravate the mutual mistrust between electoral actors in Nigeria. Fact-checking activities leading up to the 2019 election revealed a series of misleading images containing false information and at other times doctored to misinform or deployed in false context. This was prevalent among aides and supporters of leading election candidates to promote their candidates or discredit opponents.
If media houses and individuals like mushrooms are spreading fake news, either out of ignorance or malicious motives, it is expected that credible and reputable organizations will take extra steps to verify the veracity of such information. In this era of proliferating technology, it’s getting even easier to counter fake news.
In recent times, there has been the emergence of online technological platforms specifically dedicated to the fight against fake news and, fundamentally, these platforms have continued to play an important role in debunking this news which can jeopardize the Nigeria’s delicate democratic system. A typical example is FactCheck Elections; an independent, non-partisan, non-profit fact-checking platform with the aim of verifying claims and debunking fake news about electoral activities in Nigeria using research, data and technology tools . The platform also verifies manifestos, claims made during debates and monitors election results. In most cases, comments are shared through text, infographics, images, videos, animations, and social media posts. According to his website, factcheckelections.org, he focused on the 2022 gubernatorial elections and the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Other organizations like Dubawa, TheCable and other mainstream media platforms have mastered the art of using technology to counter fake news, especially during election time. Simple Google searches, reverse image searches have proven effective in many scenarios when tracking fake news. For example, Google reverse image searches are basically the process of searching the internet to identify where certain images have been used in an effort to locate the original source.
Other tech-focused devices that have helped fight fake news include The Factual, Check, Logically, Grover, Full fact, Sensity AI, ClaimBuster, . Snopes.com, FindExif.com, InVID, Hoaxy, Wolfram, among others, are all powerful artificial intelligence devices that can be used to combat and verify fake news. ground.
Interestingly, the Internet and social media are the main tools used to spread fake news, but they are also used to verify the same facts through research and information verification through the networks of online applications used in the fight against fake news. In fact, social media platforms like Facebook are also adopting additional strategies to combat fake news, fake accounts and hate speech, and have also held election integrity exhibition for media, civil society and other stakeholders in Nigeria. One such measure is to ensure that only advertisers and agencies are allowed to promote political content. This is in an effort to curb the spread of fake news during Nigeria’s elections. Thus, news platforms and individuals can verify claims on official social media pages before publishing and promoting articles about the electoral process.
In a nutshell, many technological innovations provide us with opportunities that can be used to verify and counter fake news, especially in our electoral process. Moreover, these innovations are available not only for fact-checking platforms but also for ordinary Nigerians who are usually the prime target and vulnerable to such fake news.
Olasupo Abideen is passionate about good governance, youth engagement and public policy. Abideen is the Kwara State Coordinator of the NotTooYoungToRun Movement and the Executive Director of Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative.
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