Curbing Fake News: Minister Lai Meet With Facebook, Google

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has encouraged Google and Meta, holders of social media platforms– Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram–to checkmate the spread of fake news and propaganda on their platforms ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 general elections.

The Minister made the call in Abuja on Friday during a meeting with representatives of Meta and Google, which owns YouTube and other platforms.

It’s no longer news that the use of social media is now a critical factor in public elections, and no nation, including Nigeria, is vulnerable. With a generally youthful population, Nigeria ranks among the countries with the topmost number of users of various social media platforms, especially Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

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The use or abuse of these platforms is consequently of great concern to all stakeholders in the elections, and that’s why we’ve invited you then, so we can all together work to ensure the responsible use of these platforms so that they don’t become the platforms of choice for surveyors of fake news and propaganda, he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said that government has noticed how some unconscionable people were using parody accounts, copying estimable media platforms and the use of deep fakes to carry out their unethical activities.

For instance, aspirants ’ campaign speeches are doctored to portray them in a bad light, videotape clips and pictures of campaign rallies are tampered with to make them look badly attended; fake or unscientific opinion polls are constructed, while threats of violence in certain parts of the country are inflated–all of which are also circulated via social media to a wide audience, with the idea of making their target aspirants 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 survey fake news and propaganda ahead of the elections, he said.

The Minister, thus, enjoined the two tech giants to onboard designated officials of the Ministry on their platforms so they can flag posts that constitute fake news and propaganda, with a view to having similar flagged posts brought down.

He also encouraged them to work with the security agencies to bring down posts able of inciting violence; requested that election results not actualizing from sanctioned sources should be flagged as unverified, while asking the platform owners to make posts from sanctioned channels, like the Ministry of Information and Culture, INEC, National Orientation Agency( NOA), etc, prominent on their platforms.

These conduct, if executed, will go a long way in checking the proliferation of fake news and propaganda on social media ahead, during, and after the elections, he said.

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 correspondents in addition to engaging and expanding the ambit of fact-checking platforms similar 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 to ensure their platforms aren’t used to discredit the elections.

She said Meta had also introduced internal mechanisms, similar as WhatsApp Messages transferring Limits, in addition to making it possible for people to report problematic contents to them directly.

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