Worried by the increasing incidence of disinformation and misinformation across social media platforms, the Centre for Social Media Research (CSMR) has enjoined Nigerians to be vigilant as the country heads to the polls in four days to select a new president.
CSMR is a Lagos-based specialized media concern with flair for digital conduct of Nigerian citizens and organizations and others, on issues of public interest that affect Nigerians especially, nationally and internationally. Its public interventions are based on skillful researches based on relevant methods deriving from thorough and ethical consideration.
CSMR has noted that disinformation and misinformation, otherwise popularly referred to as fake news, have distorted political communication in the run up to the election as supporters of major candidates in the presidential election compete to outdo themselves by spreading fake attributions and endorsements that purport to show prominent Nigerians as supporting and recommending a presidential candidate.
A statement signed by Associate Professor Tunde Akanni and Dr. Akin Olaniyan for CSMR read in part, “Nigerians need to be careful about purported endorsement by paid influencers who take their unsuspecting followers for a ride by publicly canvassing support for candidates while disguising their actions as borne out of any political ideology or a genuine belief in the Nigerian project.”
CSMR cited the recent case of Professor Wole Soyinka who was forced to come out to deny widely reported claims on social media that he was backing a presidential candidate.
CSMR said it was worried that rather than be seen to be supportive of resource abundance providing a public sphere connecting Nigerians and enabling rigorous debate of national issues social media are becoming a communicative space severely affecting the quality of information that ought to help Nigerians make informed choices at the polls. “Social Media are already becoming anti-social here,” it stressed.
CSMR noted that “it feared that if left unchecked, the growing incidence of so-called fake news portends grave dangers to Nigeria’s democratic process because it undermines trust in news; it further polarizes a country that has so far struggled to knit its people together; and because it thrives on sensationalism, increases the potential for political violence that targets perceived opponents.”
The Centre frowned at the willingness of politicians and their well-heeled supporters to pay shadowy foreign firms like Cambridge Analytica to attempt to influence elections in Nigeria by targeting its people with well decorated forms of disinformation and misinformation.
“We make bold to enjoin Nigerian authorities to alert Facebook, Google and Twitter to relevant issues based on our experience relating with some of these concerns having taken time to seek the understanding of their operations and their concerns,” the statement added.
This, according to CSMR, is because their business models reward web traffic governed by targeted advertising and algorithms, which often fail to spot and weed out fake news that are produced through fake social media accounts or political bots.
CSMR, therefore, advised Nigerians to be careful about sharing information through their assorted social media accounts especially WhatsApp, on account of its domineering ubiquity, unless they have been able to confirm that it is true.
It added that when Nigerians are in doubt, they should ask themselves the following questions before sharing:
• Am I sure of the source? Is it the entire truth?
• Is it relevant?
• Is it necessary?
• Will it spread fear?
• Will it incite people to violence?
• Will it put some groups or sections at risk of attack?
• What do I gain by sharing or What do I lose by not sharing?
For the umpteenth time, CSMR enjoined the governments at all levels to take the need to embark on massive media literacy campaigns as an urgent social project which promises the direly needed cohesion in Nigeria.