This year Nigeria held its general election, which saw the proliferation of mis / disinformation in the social media space.
The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), in its pre-election report, noted that the spread of misinformation and fake news were a factor that would hamper the election.
This was informed by the political activities that played out during the elections as opposition parties kept hitting each other with misinformation and disinformation.
The report stated that “the electoral campaign has polarised society leading to deliberate disinformation, misinformation, character assassination, insult and threats deployed on traditional and social media by political parties, candidates and their supporters. On social media in particular, supporters of major presidential candidates have engaged in extensive mudslinging, caricaturing of rival candidates, deliberate spread of falsehood etc. that suggest an elevated risk of violence before and on election day.”
A trend that played out pre, during, and post-election is the surge in parody and stan accounts on social media.
What is a parody account?
Interestingly, these accounts which, by the definition of parody, should be writing, music, art, or speech, that intentionally copies the style of someone famous or copies a particular situation, making the features or qualities of the original more noticeable in a humorous way, have been used as a conduit to spread misinformation.
Social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, allow for the use of parody accounts even though the policies guiding the use of parody accounts differ across the platforms.
An instance of a parody account that contributed to misinformation was when on Twitter, @General_Ibbro, which parodies former military head of state General Ibrahim Babangida, tweeted, “Gen, Olusegun Obasanjo will forever be a true elder statesman and a boss in the military. No serving General in the Nigerian Army today joined the military earlier than 1982. By then, Obasanjo had already finished his military career. I respect him a lot, with his endorsement.”
The tweet garnered over 20,000 likes, 1,500 comments, and 6,000 retweets as of the time of filling this report. The high engagement and some of the comments suggest that several people assume the account belongs to the former head of state even though “parody” was written in its bio.
This tweet came not long after a former president, General Olusegun Obasanjo, supported one of the presidential candidates, Peter Obi.
Babangida’s media aid Kassim Afegbua had to debunk the tweet and clarify that his principal did not endorse any presidential candidate for the 2023 election, nor does he have a Twitter account.
The Labour Party vice presidential candidate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed was also at the receiving end of stan/fan accounts. At a point, he had to disassociate himself from them. Some of the stan accounts were used to pass misleading and sometimes polarising information. During the just-concluded election, these pages were actively involved in tweeting sensitive and controversial political statements
The wife of a Lagos state gubernatorial candidate Ify Aniebo Rhodes-Vivour also had to disassociate herself from parody stan accounts.
On her Twitter handle @IfyAniebo she stated that she is not associated with the account.
Her tweet on March 17, reads, ”I am not in any way associated with these accounts @IfyanieboRV @IRVlagos. I am being impersonated.”
Increasing citizens’ political participation via social media has made it imperative to put a searchlight on parody accounts as it is aiding divisive content bothering on religion and ethnicity.
During the just-concluded elections, parody accounts helped to amplify the spread of false information and created an ecosystem of rumors and untrustworthy information. While parody accounts are meant to be for humor and satires, their activities are increasingly becoming subtle and powerful as informed, accurate, and trusted information is being manipulated giving room to misinformation and disinformation using these accounts.