Just when it is a few months away from the Presidential election, Nigeria seems to have been caught amid the whirlwind of fake news
The West African nation is to conduct its presidential election by February 2019, and the atmosphere seems to be filled with negative news that is aimed at polluting the minds of the prospective voter as against electoral conducts. While the problem is no longer strange to countries like India and Brazil, it has suddenly begun to spread across Nigeria in no time, and WhatsApp, which is one of the basic for Social media in the country has provided a platform to spread such unwarranted and misconceptional pieces of information.
researcher Allwell Okpi found that rumors about ethnicities and political candidates often spread through WhatsApp in Nigeria, in local languages. According to the report, people using the Facebook-owned service often receive doctored or miscaptioned images. One of the prime examples included photos of Nigerian soldiers allegedly killed by the Boko Haram terrorist group. However, those turned out to be recycled photos from another incident which involved the Kenyan Army in Somalia.
Another recent news that was tagged ‘false’ is about where politicians stand on a semi-nomadic tribe clashing with indigenous tribes and Christian farmers. Another one claimed that a presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, couldn’t enter the US because of corruption charges. Such misinformation could color people’s opinions of political candidates and skew their decisions to vote in the upcoming elections.
A recent survey indicated that over 28 percent of people in Nigeria shared information which turned out to be bogus. However, the Facebook-owned company has taken some measures to kick against the social misconduct that has now become a trend. In a country like India, WhatsApp launched a TV campaign alongside with other reach control such as imposing a limiting to the number of time a message can be forwarded, while in other places like Brazil, the company has campaigned against such act via newspapers and theaters which are the least means.
That haven been stated, it is important to have it at the back of our mind that, WhatsApp alone cannot deal with the issue, except if the government, as well as the nation’s people, develop a culture of questioning the veracity of the information they receive through new channels of communication.
While WhatsApp’s had a tough 2018, next year will put it under more pressure because of the upcoming elections in India and Nigeria. It’ll be interesting to see if the company can figure out ways to battle the spread of fake news without breaking its end-to-end message encryption.