A recent typological analysis by DUBAWA, a West African fact-checking platform, reveals the extensive prevalence of mis/disinformation during the 2023 Nigerian elections. The report focuses on the role played by social media platforms in amplifying election-related claims and their nature.
A total of 127 claims fact-checked by the Nigerian Fact-checkers’ Coalition (NFC) during the general election on February 23, 2023, and the subsequent State election on March 18, 2023, formed the data for the analysis.
The report dissected the data and highlighted the modes of dissemination, significant findings, specific social media platforms utilised, and the platform with the highest number of claims. It also reveals the peak days when these claims were most prevalent and the types of elections affected during both.
The analysis exposes Twitter and Facebook as the leading platforms for spreading mis/disinformation. Of the 83 claims fact-checked in the presidential/National Assembly election, 52 were found on Twitter, 16 on Facebook, and only a few on other platforms.
Similar patterns emerged during the gubernatorial/State House of Assembly elections. Of the 44 claims discovered, Twitter accounted for 37, while other platforms, including Facebook, shared the rest.
The report attributes the ease of spreading false claims on Twitter and Facebook to their public nature and open-ended conversations. This allows shares to gain traction and attract significant engagement quickly. During the presidential/National Assembly elections, Twitter received 17,243 interactions, while Facebook received 4,454. In the gubernatorial/State House of Assembly elections, Twitter generated 6,251 interactions, and Facebook received 3,332.
Interestingly, these platforms disseminated more video claims than images or text. The report reveals that 46 video claims, 27 image claims, and ten text claims were discovered during the presidential/National Assembly elections. In the gubernatorial/State House of Assembly elections, 23 video claims, 14 image claims, and seven text claims were identified.
This preference for video claims exploits people’s tendency to believe what they see in motion rather than static images or statements. Verifying video claims at a glance becomes challenging, making them more effective in spreading misinformation.
The report raises concerns about the lack of clear regulations on social media platforms to combat mis/disinformation. Twitter and Facebook, in particular, have insufficient policies to remove false information from cyberspace. While Facebook has recently launched Meta’s Third Party Fact-Checking Program, these efforts are limited.
This lack of stringent regulations allows social media users to spread unverified information, influencing election choices and misleading netizens. Bot accounts further complicate the situation by impersonating public figures and corporations and disseminating unverified details about them to manipulate public opinion.
The report emphasises the need for social media platforms to establish and enforce clear policies against mis/disinformation. Collaboration with recognised fact-checking bodies and tech giants like Google can also aid in managing and mitigating the spread of misinformation. Furthermore, social media platforms should flag unverified claims to raise user awareness.
The prevalence of misinformation in Nigerian elections underscores the urgent need for action. By implementing stricter policies, penalising offenders, collaborating with fact-checkers, and providing verification tools, social media platforms can contribute to curbing the spread of false information.