The perceived threat posed by fake news to the successful conduct of the 2019 elections in Nigeria has come to the fore.
A report describing Nigeria as “the capital of fake news” also noted that the issue is now Africa’s growing digital security threat.
A report published by the Wall Street Journal notes that in the run-up to the 2019 general elections starting on Saturday, February 16th, the nation has had to grapple with what it calls “fake-news epidemic,” which has also traversed the African continent.
“The problem has become so acute that the government of Africa’s most populous nation has warned that misinformation could be the biggest threat to credible elections,” WSJ reports.
It added that the Police now use radio broadcasts and telephone hotlines to counter misinformation.
Continuing, the medium reported that the Federal Government has said that sharing of fake images along with incorrect and inflammatory commentary have led to deaths in certain parts of the country.
“Fake news has upended elections across the globe but found particularly fertile ground in Africa, where 54 countries, more than 1,000 languages and chronically underfunded local media, complicate efforts to combat the spread of rumours and misinformation,” WSJ said.
The medium particularly mentioned Facebook and its WhatsApp messaging platform as two platforms on which fake news thrives, exacerbating already “tense ethnic, political, religious and social divides.”
The medium reported that Peter Cunliffe-Jones, an executive director at Africa Check, one of Facebook’s three third-party fact-checking partners in Nigeria, said,
“Misinformation has the potential to do a huge amount of social harm, harm to individuals and harm to society in ways more seriously than we see in U.S. and Europe.”
WSJ lamented that, so far, the fact-checking is no match for the pace of social media.
And though the Facebook said it was focusing on disrupting “bad actors,” in part by removing fake accounts, it confessed that there’s no one silver bullet,, as attested by its public-policy manager for African elections, Akua Gyekye.