Ahead of the 2019 elections, a coalition of news organisations in Nigeria is collaborating to combat misinformation, fake news and other factors that might have a negative impact on the polls.
The verification project will allow several newsrooms in Nigeria to work together to investigate claims and rumour circulating on social media and debunk them before they go viral.
The reporting will be powered by a group of at least 15 newsrooms drawn from print, electronic and online media.
The verification project is a collaboration between Nigerian media organisations, First Draft and the Information Disorder Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Centre.
First Draft, an international organisation working towards combatting misinformation across the globe, has developed a reliable technology to verify information, to nearly 100 per cent accuracy.
The technology has already been deployed in France and Brazil.
The media houses involved in the collaborative effort in Nigeria are The Guardian, Punch, Daily Trust, The Sun, Tribune and The Nation
Others are Channels Television, Premium Times, TheCable, Sahara reporters, The ICIR and NAN.
The coalition also includes Africa check, AFP and West Africa Service.
The Mass Communication Department of the University of Lagos, is joining as a research partner in the collective effort and will help test interventions and conduct computational research for the project.
Dayo Aiyetan, executive director of International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), an independent, non-profit news agency, whose organisation will coordinate the project, expressed concern about how politicians weaponise information either to deceive the public or injure the reputation of opponents.
He said as recent local elections have shown in the country, “the social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have become avenues for politician to spread misinformation, rumour, falsehood and fake news, adding that the media bears responsibility to verify information being churned out on social media to ensure that they are true.
“Journalists need to learn the skills to verify and fact check such misinformation and debunk them before they mislead people or cause harm.”
Aiyetan said no newsroom in Nigeria can singlehandedly confront the daily circulation of fake news with significant effect, which made the collaboration among several media houses necessary.
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In addition, a number of select bloggers will be invited to join the traditional newsrooms as re-publishing partners. Participants in the coalition will benefit from continuous training and the opportunity to share knowledge, tips and expertise with each other across newsrooms.
Not less than 50 Nigerian journalists and researchers will be trained for the verification project.
“We really want this project to be driven and owned by Nigerian journalists as you know your audiences and political context far better,” Phoebe Arnold, the International Projects Co-ordinator at First Draft, said in a statement.