Friday 10 August 2018


A very exciting discourse on the topical issue of fake news and its effect on the democratic process/values took place in Abuja between the 7th and 8th of August, 2018. The theme of the conference, hosted by the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD) was 'Democracy & Disinformation: How Fake News (FN) Threatens Our Freedom & Democracy'. Some of the sub-themes examined are:

1) General issues about fake news & disinformation in Nigeria
2) The war against facts, governance, peace and security in the post-truth era
3) Fake news as a threat to Nigeria's democracy
4) Countering fake news in a post-truth era: Social Media vs Conventional Media
5) To regulate or not: The implications of fake news for press freedom & freedom of speech
6) The fake news machine & Nigeria's 2019 general elections: The impact of FN & disinformation on election management/electoral integrity
7) Countering FN in elections
8) Towards a comprehensive strategy on cyber-security & elections
9) Crafting a new narrative: Developing a roadmap for curtailing FN in Nigeria
10) Developing the Abuja Plan of Action on FN

Some of the participants are:

*Alhaji Lai Mohammed - Minister of Information & Culture
*Idayat Hassan - Director, CDD
*Dr. Kole Shettima - Africa Director, McArthur Foundation, Nigeria
*Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa - Conflict Transformation Expert/Senior Fellow, CDD
*Ulrich Thum - Country Representative, FES, Nigeria
*Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowiez - Director, Europe & Eurasia, IFES
*Clement Nwankwo - ED, PLAC
*Engr. Chidi Nwafor - Director, ICT, INEC
*Prof. Okey Ibeanu - INEC Commissioner
*Remi Afon - President, Cyber-security Experts Association of Nigeria
*Dr. Amina Salihu - Senior Programme Officer, McArthur Foundation
*Dr. Garba Abari - DG, NOA
*Hamzat Lawal - CEO, CODE
*Yemi Adamolekun - ED, EiE 
*Innocent Chukwuma - West Africa Representative, Ford Foundation
*Prof. Attaghiru Jega - BUK/Fmr. Chairman, INEC
*Prof. Mahmoud Yakub - Chairman, INEC
*Dr. Oby Ezekwesili - Fmr. Minister of Education 
*Ishaq Modibbo - DG, NBC
*Tolu Ogunlesi - SA to the President on Digital/New Media
*Simon Kolawole - Publisher, CableNG
*Kadaria Ahmed, CEO Daria Ltd
*Dapo Olorunyomi - Publisher, Premium Times
*Adaora Onyechere - Broadcaster, AIT
*Prof. Adigun Agbaje - Department of Political Science, UI
*Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim - Senior Fellow, CDD
*Juliet Kego - Co-Founder, Whole Woman Network
*Ebele Okoli - Facebook
*Alkasim Abbulkadir - Communication Strategist
*Y.Z.Yau - ED, CITAD
*Jamie Christopher Hitchen - Independent Consultant
*Sarah Cooper - NDI

The following are some of the observations & Recommendations at the conference:

1) Our biases enable FN.
2) Golden rule for news reportage: 'If in doubt, leave out'.
3) A collaborative model needed to tackle FN derived from a holistic conversation.
4) It is un-necessary for government to regulate FN and conventional/social. Self regulation is it. It is impossible to jail 25million social media users in Nigeria. Regulation could be applied in a 'nuanced' manner.
5) FN is not a new phenomenon. It gained prominence in the aftermath of the last US elections when there was alleged 'meddling' by Russia.
6) As technology improves, there would be more FN.
7) There's a difference between FN & Sloppy News.
8) There is the need to invest in investigative journalism.
9) We need strong and vibrant newspaper/TV/Radio Houses with credibility. Such organisations would not indulge in the dissemination of FN.
10) Good governance is an antidote for FN.
11) Working definition of FN: 'Inappropriate templates in news that make people (consumers) believe what they see and read'.
12) Be careful what you wish for because attempts at curbing FN could also impact human rights negatively.
13) Nexus between misinformation and disinformation.
14) Government could also be a source of FN.
15) Invasive/Unwanted news not necessarily FN.
16) Your truth may not be valid over a lie if people believe the liar.
17) Always try to identify mischief in any news item. Familiarise yourself with the tools for identifying FN.
18) Facebook and similar platforms have a complicated set of programmes that serve you what you are interested in on the basis of your posts/likes, etc on the platform.
19) Connectivity is good, but it has its downside. Digital literacy/hygiene are important.We need to understand Artificial Intelligence (AI), data gathering/sharing and human capital development. AI is the projection surface for a process of reflection upon our conceptions of human beings and 'machine beings' as well as of the world views that are widespread in the digital age.
20) A major problem with FN in Nigeria is that it could elicit needless killing fields which may lead to genocide! Nigeria has the largest population in Africa. If there is war in Nigeria and all of us are forced to become refugees, which countries can accommodate us on the continent?
21) We can tackle FN thus:
-Calling the culprit out on the platform, i.e. naming and shaming.
-Blocking the culprit from accessing the discussions on the platform.
-Refusing to admit the culprit into similar groups from which she/he has been expelled.
-De-registering the culprit in Associations related to particular niches: This is very relevant to Bloggers.
22) Always use the 'Rotary Club's four way test of the things we think say or do' to all 'news' items.
23) There should be stiffer penalties for those who disseminate false/un-authorised election results.
24) There should be a national campaign against FN.
25) Officials of EMBs should be trained in cyber security/hygiene.
26) We should be aware that we deposit mega data about our habits when we go on line.
27) INEC should continue to improve on cyber-security because the hacker is always many steps ahead. Random audits are a low cost way of auditing. There should be multiple back-ups for INEC data.
28) Card readers need to be enhanced in order to prevent abuse.
29) The local flavour of FN needs to be further interrogated, maybe in a follow up conference. Posers: What is FN called in your mother tongue?

At the end of the conference, an Abuja Plan of Action on FN (APAFN), which is yet to be fine-tuned was presented.It was indeed a timely discourse which focused on the dangerous potential of FN to destroy democracy and elicit 'killing fields'. The proposed APAFN could be the beginning of the gradual elimination of FN from the landscape!

Related Links

*Why we are susceptible to FN and what we can do about it
*How FN breaks your brain
*How FN tricks your brain
*Dissecting disinformation in Nigeria: An overview of CDD's work so far
*Cognitive ability and vulnerability to FN
*Grand delusion:Why we all believe the weirdest things 
*Why we (often) believe FN
*How to protect your brain from FN
*How FN spreads: A neurological explanation
*Why your brain may be wired to believe FN
*Unbelievable news: Read it again and you might think it's true
*Post-truth politics, the fifth estate & the scrutinisation of FN
*The neuroscience of memory: Implications for the courtroom
*False memory syndrome: An overview
*The true history of fake news
*Illusory memories: A cognitive neuroscience analysis 
*Fake news and Nigeria's farmer-herder crisis
*The neuroscience of hate speech
*Inequality makes people hate   nytimes://
*Psychologists discover what type of person is most likely to believe fake news
*Quantum experiment suggests there are really 'alternative facts'
*How do we pry apart the true and compelling from the false and toxic?
*How to reduce digital distractions: Advice from medieval monks -reduce-digital-distractions-advice-from-medieval-monks
*Nigeria's fake news ecosystem
*Thanks to Facebook, your cellphone company is watching you more closely than ever
*How WhatsApp is used & misused in Africa
*The internet is more fragile than you think
*The sophisticated ways WhatsApp was used in Nigeria's 2019 elections
*Nigeria: Facebook to curb fake news using Yoruba & Ibo languages
*Facebook is committed to reducing the spread of false news
*In this age of fake news and manipulation, you are the new battlefield
*Nigeria's disinformation landscape
*On conspiracy theories, social media & the spread of misinformation - Witney Phillips
*International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), heartened by nomination for Nobel Peace Prize 2021
*Mapping civil society responses to disinformation
*From satanic panics to QAnon: A guide to fake news & conspiracies
*Facebook users find fake news more engaging than facts
*Disinformation is one of the greatest threats to democracy
*Fake news detection using Machine Learning (ML)



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