Introducing: #rpAccra speaker Yemisi Adegoke
Photo Credits: STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images / Charlie Northcott
The influencing and manipulation of public opinion via social media platforms has recently emerged as a critical threat to users around the globe. Be it governments, news portals or individual users, social media platforms have been used as a tool to spread junk news and misinformation, doing more harm than good. Such is true for Nigeria, where Yemisi Adegoke, a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Lagos, investigated the use of social media. In her report “Like. Share. Kill.”, Yemisi explores the use of false information and how images on Facebook have contributed to more than a dozen recent killings in Plateau State - an area already torn by ethnic violence. Yemisi is a graduate of the Arthur L Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University. Her writing has been featured in media organizations including: The Guardian (UK), The Independent (UK), The Voice, Media Diversified and TRUE Africa. She also served as assistant producer on Ade Adepitan: Journey of My Lifetime, a feature length documentary on polio in Nigeria starring paralympian Ade Adepitan for Channel 4 (UK). Yemisi’s interests include feminism, politics, culture and Arsenal FC.
1. When did you start researching the effects of Fake News in Nigeria and what are some of your key findings?
Fake news in Nigeria is not a new phenomenon; rumour mongering and spreading false news has existed for years for various reasons. The explosion of the Internet and the growth of social media platforms like Facebook have just exacerbated an existing problem. What we discovered in the course of our investigation is that in a country like Nigeria, where there are very real ethnic and religious tensions and conflicts, this false information heighten things and as the Nigerian police told us, can lead to violence. One of our major findings was that the police said false information and incendiary images on Facebook had contributed to the death of more than a dozen people.
2. In countries where the majority of the population cannot afford free data access, what particular responsibility do zero rated social media platforms have?
This is an important issue. In 2016 Facebook rolled out its Free Basics program in Nigeria, giving users access to 80 pre-selected websites (including Facebook) at no extra cost. This makes it a lot easier for people stay connected, but in some cases it may result in people relying solely on these pre-selected sites to get their information. One of the problems with that, is that media literacy remains a problem in this region, so many people are unable to identify what fake news is and don’t know how to report it when they are able to spot it. Facebook did tell us that they are aware of this issue and they have launched an online safety and digital literacy youth programme, but the problem here is scale. Facebook are partnering with 140 schools for this program but there are more than 50,000 schools in Nigeria.
3. Any ideas on how to stop the spread of disinformation on social media platforms?
It needs to be a holistic solution. Traditional media has a role to play; the government has a role to play, social media platforms and users too. One thing I do think is very important for social media platforms to understand, is that countries and communities have their own contexts. It’s really important to understand what these contexts are when trying to figure out a solution; a strategy for the UK for example, may not work in Nigeria, because the context on ground in Nigeria may allow for disinformation spreading further and faster. Solutions have to take these nuances into consideration for them to work.
For more information about the session by Yemisi Adegoke, click here.