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
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
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
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.