From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja 

The Federal Government, yesterday,  called on 

Google and Meta, owners of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, to

checkmate the spread of fake news and disinformation on their platforms in the  country. 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed,  made the call ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Speaking during a meeting with

representatives of Meta and Google, which owns YouTube and other

platforms in his office in Abuja,  Mohammed said: “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 number of users of the various social

media platforms, especially Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,

YouTube and TikTok.

”The use, or misuse, of these platforms is therefore of great concern

to all stakeholders in the elections, and that’s why we have invited

you here, so we can all jointly work to ensure a responsible use of

these platforms so that they don’t become the platforms of choice for

purveyors of fake news and disinformation.”

Mohammed also said the government has noticed how some unscrupulous

people are using 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 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

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been a gross abuse of social media platforms to purvey fake news and

disinformation ahead of the elections,” Mohammed also said.

While calling on the two tech giants to onboard

designated officials of the Ministry on their platforms so they can

flag posts that constitute fake news and disinformation, the minister added that the call was with a view to having such flagged posts brought down.

The minister further urged them to work with the security agencies to bring down

posts capable of inciting violence; requested that election results

not originating from official sources should be flagged as unverified,

while asking the platform owners to make posts from official channels,

like the Ministry of Information and Culture, INEC, National

Orientation Agency, etc., prominent on their platforms.

“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,” Mohammed further 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 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.