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Disinformation Spirals Amid Preps for Nigeria’s Feb 25 Polls

A Polling Zone belonging to INEC (Facebook/INEC)
A Polling Zone belonging to INEC (Facebook/INEC)

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reports fighting fake news and disinformation which the electoral body said is focused on undermining the integrity of the Feb. 25 elections.

Electoral officials in the West African nation report that over 39 million social media users are using platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and TikTok, where they are encountering disinformation focused on undermining INEC.

Through a recently issued report, the Center for Democracy and Development said the upcoming elections are plagued by disinformation that is coupled by efforts to either glorify or delegitimize political candidates.

“Renewed sophistication and organization in the push of information has been observed with efforts generally focused on glorifying or delegitimizing political candidates and undermining the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),” read the report.

Opeyemi Kehinde, a member of Nigeria’s Factcheckers’ Coalition said accusations of widespread vote rigging, tallying errors and corruption have marred previous ballots in the West African nation.

“Disinformation has triggered election violence in the past because people believed what they saw on social media,” said Kehinde.

“It is important for people to trust information that comes from INEC or other official sources, especially election results,” he added.

Kehinde also said his organization has recorded the spread of disinformation after witnessing presidential frontrunners trading accusations and blame over the cash shortages.

“We have seen an increase in election disinformation, with some candidates maligning the character of their opponents at rallies and on social media platforms,” he said.

Barry Andrews, the head of the European Union Poll Observer mission said the regional bloc has sent a team to aid in ensuring that the West African nation has a democratic and transparent election.

“We have had a team on the group since early January, a core team of experts and we have also deployed long term observers across the country and we will stay all the way through the governors’ elections in March,” said Andrews.

“We are delighted to be able to not just be able to contribute to Nigerian democracy but democracy in West Africa and across the world,” he added.

VOA’s Peter Clottey contributed to this report. Information was sourced from Agence France-Presse.