2023: NFC unveils situation room, set to combat election misinformation

THE Nigerian Fact-Checkers’ Coalition (NFC) has unveiled its situation rooms to combat misinformation ahead of the 2023 general elections starting on Saturday, February 25. 

The NFC election situation rooms located in Abuja, Lagos and the United Kingdom, will monitor the spread of election misinformation and disinformation targeted at inciting violence, promoting voter apathy, undermining trust in the electoral process and influencing the outcome of election. 

The Abuja NFC situation room, which is linked virtually to others, is domiciled at The ICIR office in Abuja which also doubles as the coalition’s secretariat.

Opeyemi Kehinde, Editor at the FactCheckHub and NFC’s Coordinator, said the situation room is poised to monitor ‘fake news’ (misinformation and disinformation) purveyors, noting that Thursday’s dry run, held in Abuja, was to ensure effective work flow during the election.

“One of the things that we have put in place is to collapse our staff from most partner organisations into the coalition’s situation rooms where every person representing various partners will monitor and debunk ‘fake news’ that’s spreading on election day until the final results are announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The role of the coalition in ensuring the election integrity is very significant because we understand the dangers that lurk around when misinformation is allowed to have its way in the electoral process,” Kehinde said.

Caroline Anipah, Deputy Director at the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) commended the NFC for its work.

“The NFC has been doing a tremendous work holding political candidates and their followers accountable since it was set up. It has been heavily involved in live presidential debate fact-checking, among others.

“From the public reception of our work, we know we are doing things right, making a difference, and contributing to a cleaner information space – one devoid of the volume of misinformation that would have circulated without our work,” Anipah said.

The coalition, which was officially launched in June 2022, has observed various trends of misinformation and disinformation over the months running into the election.

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“Some of the trends we have observed include the use of impersonation and digital mercenaries to insert certain narratives into mainstream conversation by manipulating Twitter’s Trending Topics,” Rosemary Ajayi, founder and lead researcher of Digital Africa Research Lab says.

“We have also documented the use of live video on Facebook and YouTube to stoke ethnic tensions and call for violence against certain ethnic groups on Election Day.

“We’ve also seen the politicisation of fact-checks published by the NFC. But a very interesting trend is the politicisation of Twitter Blue where savvy political actors subscribe to Twitter’s blue tick scheme to exploit the increased visibility it affords. It’s a worthwhile investment as subscribers’ Tweets are given prominence. I am keen to see how many will continue to subscribe after the elections,” Ajayi added.

Also commenting on the coalition’s preparedness for the election, Kemi Busari, DUBAWA Nigeria Editor, said: “The NFC is set to do a live fact-checking of election-related misinformation. We enjoin the public to send us claims and ensure they confirm any information before passing it on.”




     

     

    Busari urged members of the public to always verify information before sharing on social media platforms. He encouraged the public to send any suspicious post, images or video that they want verified on Election Day to the coalition’s WhatsApp number: +2349030785265.

    “We will provide voters and the general public with accurate information – verified and fact-checked, to help them make all the important decisions they must make during the elections,” Anipah said.

    NFC comprises of leading Nigerian newsrooms, fact-checking organisations and civil society actors such as FactCheckHub, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Premium Times, TheCable, Africa Check, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Daily Trust, Digital Africa Research Lab, Dubawa, FactsMatterNG, and The Insight.

    The NFC consists of researchers, fact-checkers, social media monitors, editors, misinformation and disinformation experts drawn from the coalition partners.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

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