NIGERIA’s former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, on Wednesday, disclosed the need to consider motivating purveyors of factual information, through incentives as a way of discouraging the spread of fake news.
Ezekwesili made the call during a webinar jointly organised by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Knight Fellowship in Nigeria.
The maiden edition held last year had the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, as the keynote speaker.
In her keynote address at the conference themed, ‘Public Accountability in Stemming Misinformation,’ Ezekwesili said aside from the incentives, such a system would also reduce the credibility of those notorious for sharing misinformation.
The initiative is to be developed through collaborations with the public and media, and the group would determine the trust points as well as indicators on how the trust should be measured, she noted.
For every solution, we must consider for reducing or ensuring people are accountable for fake news, we need to think incentive and disincentive based approach. That is an approach that rewards a record of consistent dissemination of facts, truth.
That system that makes a person a purveyor of accurate information, especially those with strong followers and are sufficient to influence what others may think or do.
“The system would also deduct trust points in case unverified news are disseminated by the newsmakers or social media influencers.”
According to her, “the erosion of trust points overtime will signify a red flag anytime news comes from such individual or individuals.”
Besides, the former World Bank vice president, Africa region, identified the need to overwhelm ‘the market of news’ with accurate, evidence-based reporting. The continuous publication of factual information, she said, would overshadow false information.
While she spoke on being mindful of the inalienable right of the freedom of information of the people, in the guise of fighting fake news, the media is expected to perform its education function, thus teach the public in the simplest, plain language.
In the area of legislation, Ezekwesili kicked against the proposed social media bill, saying it would only repress the people. She tasked the relevant government institutions to remain alive to their responsibilities as there is an existing law that addresses issues of defamation, libel and the likes.
Earlier, the Executive Director of The ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, said while holding people who deliberately post fake news to account, there is the need to look at the responsibility of the ordinary man who tends to look at misinformation warfare.
Citing Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Aviation Minister, as an instance, he said the politician had discouraged people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine through unverifiable assertions that it was meant to depopulate Africa. Still, the same minister recently took the COVID-19 vaccine.
The FactCheckHub, he said, has been deliberate in creating explainer videos, and training people to make everyone a fact-checker.
He also called for collective responsibilities from the government, Civil Society Organisations, stakeholders and the important role of the general public to check the spread of misinformation.
“We need to increasingly look at the responsibility of the ordinary man who becomes the weapon to use in the misinformation warfare. At the end of today, we hope we will have sensitized the public to combat misinformation.
“It is not the job of the government, civil society and the media alone. Everyone must be involved.”
“The media needs to collaborate more with civil society organisations in promoting our democracy and making government accountable,” – @NaziruMikailu, Editor-in-Chief/Executive Director, @daily_trust newspaper.
— FactCheckHub (@thefactcheckhub) March 31, 2021
The executive director/ editor-in-chief of Daily Trust newspapers, Naziru Mikail Abubakar, shared similar positions with Aiyetan and the former minister.
But, in his remarks, he encouraged both the legacy media and digital media to take active participation in combating misinformation.
The digital media organisations, he said, have bigger responsibilities to play.
Abubakar advised on the need for journalists’ training, media collaborations, investigative journalism, fact-checking, and self-examination.
Beyond media training initiated by local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), he tasked local media with best practices, stressing the need to set up a dedicated fund for the capacity building of journalists.
He also advised journalists to get the right modern tools.
Abubakar, who called for more investigative reporting encouraged local fact-checking organisations to increase fact-checking efforts, rather than republishing verified claims published by international fact-checking organisations.
“Government officials are making false statements. Some of these are false claims that should be fact-checked. If it is difficult to do individually, media organizations should collaborate with each other to make this possible.”
The Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, expressed worry on how fake news could impact the nation’s democracy.
She observed the benefits of social media as a tool that enabled the people to influence government policies, gave voices to the marginalised, but it is something that requires more attention.
Examining the difference between misinformation and disinformation, she highlighted the deliberate intent of the purveyor.
“The automation in disinformation in Nigeria is huge with 19.5 per cent. And the tools used include Nairaland, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the recent one is Opera News.” She said.
However, in providing a lasting solution against the menace, Hassan advised the use of audio, picture, video to spread factual information. Beyond these, she also identified the adoption of local languages.
“There is a need to construct an informal structure that would resonate with the people.”
The founder of BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde, was the last panellist. In his topic titled, Digital Advocacy and Public Enlightenment on Social Media, he also described fake news as an extension of malicious reporting.
In the process, he explained the dynamism and how people react to information on each of the social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp.
Describing the distinctiveness as ‘spirit of the medium’, he advised media firms to shut down trolls.
In addition, Onigbinde urged the tech giants to design special algorithms that could discourage fake news, as well as spotting and delegitimising its purveyors.
He said there is a need for more advocacy for the tech giants to play an important role in addressing fake news.