How to safeguard your organisation from being a disinformation campaign target

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THERE has been a growing trend of disinformation in Nigeria, while the aim has always been to influence opinions and set agenda, a growing trend The FactCheckHub has noticed is that it does not only affect individuals.

Public and private entities, including companies and agencies are also affected. The FactCheckHub has published several debunks on phishing scams and websites. Most of these messages impersonate some of these corporate bodies or their executives to scam unsuspecting individuals.

Another tactic deployed by scammers is pretending to be customer care support in the comments section of a post on social media. This takes place often on X and is regarded as angler phishing.

Apart from being impersonated, corporate bodies and agencies can also be a victim of misinformation and disinformation through phishing scams such as ‘Business email compromise’ commonly known as CEO fraud.

Here are few tips to note to prevent your organisation from being a target of misinformation:

READ: Phishing scam: a misinformation tool threatening cyber security

Establish a tracking system and identify escalation factors

An organisation may be more vulnerable to misinformation and more likely to experience a disinformation attack under certain environmental circumstances. Therefore, identifying and evaluating possible weak points in your company and the communities you collaborate with is a crucial first step in battling misinformation. To estimate risk more precisely, you can monitor online conversations about your business or organisation by watching out for early warning indications of a misinformation effort, and conducting media risk assessments.

Give your communications and social media teams the tools they need to monitor mentions of your business or organisation, your competitors, and the industry as a whole. This will help you stay informed about any potential effects on the industry as a whole and plan ahead for them. Ensure your team has the appropriate data inflexion points and monitoring tools in place so they can identify when to elevate a concern to leadership.

Create an accessible resource centre for stakeholders

Your team can manage customer and media inquiries more efficiently by allocating time and resources to a dedicated questions and answers hub on company-owned platforms such as a resource hub or a fact-checking desk.

Stakeholders possess the ability to spot troubling tendencies before others do. They may also offer crucial information for organising a suitable reaction. By directing questions to the resource hub, they can swiftly refute any claims made and ensure responses to the public are observable and consistent.

An internal method for recording and reporting misinformation should be established to assist stakeholders in recording events as they happen.

Take extra precautionary measures on social media

Websites, social media, and messaging apps can all be used to disseminate misinformation, but how actors want to reach their audiences will determine how much and where misinformation is distributed. It is important to create a mechanism to register and document problematic content as it is observed, as gathering statistics on disinformation patterns can be difficult. Gathering and disseminating data could assist your company in locating authoritative sources and misinformation networks.
Executives are most susceptible to risk, particularly CEOs who lack optimised and verified profiles on social media. Enhanced digital profiles are crucial when dealing with serious issues because of the increasing risks of online impersonation and the dissemination of false information, especially using artificial intelligence (AI) generated content.

Social media is a major source of information during emergency situations; so it is more crucial than ever for individuals holding leadership or executive positions to have authentic, maintained, and owned online profiles to enable individuals to decipher parody accounts from real ones.

READ ALSO: 5 common types of phishing and how to prevent being a victim

Employ professional spokespersons

The objective is always to handle a problem before it gets serious enough to need the involvement of a spokesman. It’s important to choose and train spokespersons who can effectively represent the business or organisation in the event of an information disorder. An efficient technique to provide your spokesperson with the tools they need to communicate to the media and other stakeholders at crucial times is to practice on camera with important company messaging, questions and answers, and suggestions on how to interact with them.

Involving third-party organisations

Even though it’s essential for a business or organisation to communicate about itself, using outside voices to enhance your narrative can be quite beneficial. A business must consistently foster advocates, whether they originate from partners, industry experts, staff, inter-agencies or other important stakeholders. One of these is forging relationships with credible media houses.

Evaluating the media landscape encompassing your business or organisation requires recognising both possible and potential strong points. Establishing connections with reliable news sources and dependable journalists might aid in halting the dissemination of false information. Strengthening these networks can be achieved through setting up one-on-one meetings, inviting journalists to events and activities on a regular basis, and providing these sources with a constant flow of accurate information.

Speaking with The FactCheckHub, Moruff Adenekan, the Managing Director of PR Redline Limited, noted that it is impossible for any institution or individual to prevent themselves from misinformation or malinformation while stating major reasons why it is impossible to do so.

Moruff Adenekan
Moruff Adenekan

“Various stakeholders have different sources of information as well as varying understanding abilities to decipher the information they come across concerning the organisations they have interest in. For instance, there might be a media report of an issue and while some people may demand to know the authenticity of the media or the credibility of the report before they take any action, others may just run with it as concrete fact and help in broadcasting it to other people.

“Every organisation has competitors that may want to have undue advantage in the market. Some of these competitors may, from time to time, sponsor some non-factual information to undo other brands. In the early 2000’s there was a campaign of calumny against the leading noodles brand in that market segment at the time. News later filtered in that the campaign was a market entry strategy allegedly sponsored by a new brand of noodles that was about to launch at the time”, Adenekan noted

Citing the popular misinformation about the former president, Muhammadu Buhari’s health during his tenure as president of the country. He noted that the president and his media team were not communicating properly about his state of health as they were giving scanty and unconvincing information about the issues making it easy for people to “fill in the gaps” as it suits them while stating that clarity of information from organisations help prevent misinformation.

Adesola Ikulajolu, A fact-checker with BBC also stated that misinformation does not leave anyone behind because anyone and any organisation can be affected.

“One of the easiest ways for organisations to prevent these is to build trust and connection with their audience. Many organisations are dormant and inactive on social media, their media presence is shallow hence, giving chances for fake news peddlers to leverage that to deceive the public. But if an organisation is active, the audience will be aware that it is the information found their pages that they will believe and accept,” Ikulajolu stated.

Adenekan highlighted notable steps organisations could take when they are a target of disinformation and further steps for future prevention. Such as knowing the extent of the spread which would assist  in determining the size of the campaign to correct the misinformation.

“When there is misinformation about a corporate body or any of its products, the first thing we do is try to know the content of the information, ascertain its source, know the extent of spread and the actual/possible damage. When all these indices are collected, they will help us in crafting a veritable communications plan to stem the tide of the negative information and correct the misconception/address the misinformation.”

“If the spread is small, we may just need to put up a news release on our website to guide those seeking factual information on the matter. If, on the contrary, it has become widespread, we may have to write and place a press release across the various news platforms l, advertorial or hold a press conference”. He stated

Ikulajolu also noted that while it is advisable for situations as such to be avoided for organisations, they however need to be proactive in churning accurate information to the public.

“Organisations also needs competent hands in their information and PR units, being an image maker is key to the success of any organisation be it private or public. They also need to be aware of the ever-changing technology world where AI is now working more than humans, hence, they must be able to deploy their own tool in debunking whatever false information has been spread about them,” he stated

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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