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The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, has urged Meta to involve more fact-checkers with good knowledge of Nigeria’s local languages. Meta owns Facebook and Whatsapp.

“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,” Abdullahi told WhatsApp’s Director, Public Policy for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Helen Charles, and Meta’s Head of Public Policy for Anglophone West Africa Adaora Ikenze during a recent courtesy call  in Abuja by the tech giant.

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Fact-checking could be an entirely new industry offering new job opportunities, Abdullahi noted on behalf of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.

According to him, the Nigerian “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.”

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Fact-checkers should also be proficient in a minimum of three major languages in Nigeria for easy spotting of harmful content either written or translated into one of the languages, the NITDA boss said even as he noted that Meta’s support was highly needed to promote the growth of the fact-checking industry.

His words: 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.

“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 said the Code of Practice (COP) was coming at the right time as the country prepares for general elections.

“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%,” he added.

Ikenze agreed with the NITDA boss and said it has become important for Nigerians to see accurate information on the services of Meta in Nigeria. He assured that Meta through its fact-checking partners: FAP, Africa Check and Dubawa will remove any fake information that could foster violence or physical harm in the country.

She said the fact-checkers would review and rate potentially false contents on all Meta’s platforms, label them and place them lower on the feeds so that few people could see such contents.

At the meeting with the Meta team were senior management members of the IT regulatory agency and the National Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB),Dr Vincent Olatunji.

“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,” said Ikenze.

Meta is partnering with local radio stations to create awareness against the creation and spread of false news through radio dramas in English and Pidgin, she said adding that the social media giant would also be executing a WhatsApp awareness campaign, #YouSaid in Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, and Pidgin to enlighten users on how to verify information before sharing and running online ads on Facebook.

According to her, this approach has been informed by conversations with human rights groups, local civil society organizations, regional experts, and local election authorities to help ensure the safety of people using Meta’s family of apps.

Ikenze assured that Meta remains committed to protecting the integrity of the Nigerian electoral process and the entrenchment of a ‘culture of zero tolerance’ for fake news proliferation.

 

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