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Ahead of the fast approaching 2023 elections, the Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, has called on the management of global tech giant Meta to involve more fact-checkers with good knowledge of Nigeria’s local languages.
Inuwa made the call when he received WhatsApp’s Director, Public Policy for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Helen Charles, alongside Meta’s Head of Public Policy for Anglophone West Africa Adaora Ikenze on behalf of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami in his office.
The DG noted that fact-checking could be an entirely new industry with lots of job opportunities.
According to him, “the fact-checking aspect of the Code of Practice is critical now because of the election, we need more fact-checkers, and also beyond the election, we are looking at how we can expand it to even make it an Industry which can create jobs within the country”.
While assuring Nigerians that government would not meddle in the activities of fact-checkers, as they will be given a free hand to operate, content posted by Nigerians should be thoroughly verified by the fact-checkers to establish its genuineness or otherwise for appropriate action.
Inuwa appealed that the fact-checkers must be proficient in at least the three major languages in Nigeria for easy spotting of such harmful content either written or translated into one of the languages. The DG NITDA further said that Meta’s support is highly needed, especially in supporting the growth of the Fact-checking industry.
“Technology is changing the way we live, work, our democracy, and everything. Technology is just beyond business or other things, it also touches our life and changes everything”, he noted.
He further noted, “therefore, we need to work together and change everything, so we need to improve on accountability, increase competition, safeguard privacy, protect our democracy and transform governance in Nigeria”.
“Everyone agreed that we need regulation, but we don’t know the best regulation, and the best way to go about it is to co-create that regulation in a similar way the Code of Practice was issued”, he added.
The Code of Practice (COP) that the NITDA Boss emphasized came at the right time as the country heads for its general election.
“So far, NITDA has done so much in terms of providing enabling environment for safe Information Technology usage in Nigeria while training a lot of Nigerian youth on the adoption of technology and improved practices as Nigeria keeps on expanding its digital literacy coverage in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2030 target of 95%”.
The Director General noted that NITDA will intensify its effort to ensure internet usage safety devoid of harmful content that could jeopardize the peace and harmonious coexistence among Nigerians before, during and after the elections.
Earlier in her presentation, Meta’s Director, Public Policy for Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze, noted that it was important for Nigerians to see accurate information on the services of Meta in Nigeria. Ikenze said henceforth, Meta through its fact-checking partners, FAP, Africa Check and Dubawa will remove any sensitive fake information that could lead to imminent violence or physical harm amongst people living in the country.
The fact-checking, she explained, would review and rate potentially false content on all the platforms, label it and place it lower on the feeds so that few numbers of people could see it.
Meta has since been engaging Fact Checkers in Nigeria and will continue to do so, especially with the Code of Practice in effect, which encourages platforms to engage the services of Fact Checkers, Ikenze said.
To further educate Nigerians on how to spot false news and the actions to take, Meta, she said, is partnering with local radio stations to create awareness against the creation and spread of false news through radio dramas in English and Pidgin.
Ikenze also intimated to the nation’s IT regulator that, Meta would also be executing a WhatsApp awareness campaign, #YouSaid in Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, and Pidgin to enlighten users on how to verify the information before sharing and running online ads on Facebook.
She explained that Meta’s approach has also been informed by conversations with human rights groups, NGOs, local civil society organizations, regional experts, and local election authorities to help ensure the safety of people using Meta’s family of apps. She also gave assurance that Meta is deeply concerned and remains committed to protecting the integrity of the Nigerian electoral process, as well as the entrenchment of a culture of zero tolerance for fake news proliferation.