The Centre for Social Media Research (CSMR) has raised concerns about the impact of fake news on Nigeria’s democratic process, warning that disinformation and misinformation on social media platforms are distorting political communication in the run-up to elections.
In a statement issued by Tunde Akanni and Akin Olaniyan, representatives of the organization, the CSMR urged Nigerians to be cautious of fake endorsements by paid influencers who deceive their followers by disguising their actions as political ideology or a belief in the Nigerian project.
Citing Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s recent denial of backing a presidential candidate, the CSMR expressed worry that social media platforms are affecting the quality of information that Nigerians need to make informed decisions at the polls.
The organization cautioned that unchecked fake news poses a grave danger to Nigeria’s democratic process by undermining trust in news, further polarizing the country, and and increasing the potential for political violence that targets perceived opponents.
“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,
“Social Media is already becoming anti-social here,” the statement reads.
“It is 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 polarises 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.
“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 CSMR urged Nigerian authorities to alert Facebook, Google, and Twitter to the relevant issues based on the organization’s experience relating to these concerns. To combat fake news, CSMR advised Nigerians to be careful when sharing information on their social media accounts and only share verified news.
It added that, when a social media user is in doubt, they should confirm the source and question whether it could incite violence before sharing.
The CSMR emphasized the urgency of addressing the growing incidence of fake news on social media platforms to safeguard Nigeria’s democratic process.