Generally, the purpose of disinformation during an election period is to influence voters’ decision-making or sow doubts in the electoral process. However, this has led to violence in countries with fragile democracies.
Since early 2022, Nigerian political space has been flooded with many forms of misinformation and misinformation that have fueled violence and led citizens to make ill-informed decisions.
For example, misleading information and disinformation were important factors in the escalation of violence in Kenya following the 2017 general election. In 2020, the spread of misinformation and divisive language provoked deadly post-election violence in the Central African Republic.
The State Security Service in Nigeria recently indicated that fake news could pose one of the biggest threats to justice and security of the 2023 general election.
In an attempt to address this issue, Nigeria’s fact-checking platform, FactCheck Elections, uses innovative research methods, data and technological tools to correct misinformation about election activities.
Launch a fact-checking platform
After monitoring several elections and conducting research that indicated that disinformation is one of the reasons why Nigerians have lost interest in election processes, Olasupo Abideen, a young activist with a passion for civic technology, created FactCheck Elections in April 2022.
“We started the organization to help Nigerians make critical decisions during elections. Politicians in Nigeria are known to spread all kinds of false information to put pressure on people and incite violence. So we thought we needed a platform to save people’s lives. people of this deadly misinformation,” says Abideen.
The startup verifies manifestos and claims made during the debates, monitors the results of the elections and presents its conclusions in the form of short articles, infographics🇧🇷 The picturesvideos and social media posts🇧🇷 The mission of FactCheck Elections is to ensure that Nigerian voters vote based on verified facts about candidates rather than spreading misinformation about them.
Since its inception, the platform has provided numerous verified, independent and non-partisan reports on online misinformation. Some of the platform’s reports corrected erroneous claims made by politicians in an attempt to mislead an unsuspecting public or incite violence. To date, FactCheck Elections contributors have written, edited and published over 100 fact-checking articles, media literacy analyzes and other explanatory documents ahead of the 2023 elections in Nigeria.
The organization’s main commitments are agility, ethics, transparency and responsibility, says Abideen. He and his team are determined to ensure that false information is clarified as quickly as possible and to reduce the speed at which these allegations reach the people who may be influenced. “We help Nigerians suspect candidates from different political parties so that they are more careful during campaigns because they know that there is a dedicated platform to verify their claims,” he said.
In order to empower his staff and volunteers, Mr. Abideen invites other journalists, fact-checkers and media experts who are members of International Fact-Checking Network organizations to her workshops so they can share more best practices about fact-checking.
“We are a team of seven people, supported by some volunteers who are interested in our work. We have successfully tackled many forms of fake news related to the upcoming elections in the country,” he said.
Although Mr. Abideen and her team have been successful in carrying out the journalistic mission of FactCheck Elections, finding a financial balance has not been easy. Most of the organization’s resources come from the founder’s personal income. Mr. Abideen hopes to receive funds thanks to the files he has presented to civil society organizations fighting misinformation.
“We don’t receive any funding from any outside agency and this is one of the main challenges we face. While there are many bright young people who want to fact-check for us, there isn’t a lot of money to keep them,” he laments.
Even so, Abideen is optimistic. He believes that in the near future, FactCheck Elections volunteers will become full-time employees who will positively impact the lives of Nigerians and other populations across the continent. He hopes that the platform will become a platform where all Africans can confirm the veracity of information related to electoral activities on the continent.
“We are looking forward to being able to sustain this project and give visibility to our work during the next elections in Nigeria and in Africa in general”, he concludes.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.