Proposal to curb fake news on social media in Nigeria
Preface (27 Oct. 2020): I wrote the first draft of this article barely 24 hours after the massacre at Lekki Tollgate. It was an emotional period for a lot of Nigerians. I tried to leave most of the article as pure as it was (for posterity’s sake) but made edits to the introduction, and minor edits to the body for coherence. Work has begun on the proposal discussed here and we need volunteers, is that you?
The October 2020 EndSARS protests in Nigeria was the boiling point after years of extrajudicial killings, kidnapping, robbing and brutalizing of citizens by the Police unit SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) in parts of Nigeria.
The peaceful protests gained momentum, with thousands of Nigerians at home and abroad lending their voices and asking not only for the end of SARS but other police reforms.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari on Oct 12. “disbanded SARS” by executive order.
While this very public outcry of police brutality was going on AND the statements by the IG of Police and President Buhari, there were multiple cases of police violence, thugs disguising as protesters looting, instigating violence in different parts of the country from Delta, Oshogbo, Abuja and Lagos.
Another thing happening is the censorship of traditional news and media in the country. It’s noteworthy that AriseTV has consistently reported the facts of the protests. The rest more or less ignored the overwhelming evidence that’s circulating on social media.
Social media has been our saving grace. Its decentralized model makes it impossible to censor, but, that’s also its weakness. Fake news is on the rise especially as emotions are high which weakens the power of social media.
What to do…
In the face of all that’s happening, and the news that’s being shared on social media. It’s easy to feel powerless. To feel like there’s absolutely nothing that I as an individual can do about this.
Damn if I’ll feel that way anymore.
I make things. I decided to channel that frustration and anger into designing and building. So, I’m going to build things that hopefully will make things better for all Nigerians.
If you go on Twitter today (21, October 2020) you’ll be bombarded with photos and videos of shootings, lootings and it’s difficult to figure out:
- Actors: Who’s who in these videos?
- Context: What exactly is happening?
- Trust: Can I trust this bit of information?
- Verification: Where/How do I verify what this bit of news/media?
Unscrupulous people start and spread fake news and regular folks in their outrage can take it up and rebroadcast.
This is dangerous for several reasons, it can dilute/distract from the truth, and it’s the spreading of lies.
The solution that’s most obvious to me is to crowdsource the gathering, corroboration of news similar to how it currently happens on social media.
- Favour eyewitness accounts with photo or video evidence
- Mass adoption of evidence or news (the more people that corroborate, the higher the likelihood that it’s true)
- Posters can only interact with their social media platforms older than a certain date. To prevent fake accounts and spamming
- Easily and quickly identify fake news and stop their spread
- Provide source of verified news that regular people can have confidence in
- Make it impossible/difficult for governments and whatever powers that be to suppress certain news
- Ultimately, serve as evidence that can be admissible in court and used for defense and or prosecution.
- Get people heard who don’t have large followings on social media.