The Disinformation in Election reports launched by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) on Thursday has revealed that Twitter dominated as a distribution platform used for promoting false claims before and during the Ondo and Edo gubernatorial elections held last year.
The twin reports, titled: “A topological Analysis of Information Disorder, and A distribution analysis of information disorder via media channels,” in Ondo and Edo 2020 elections respectively were launched at the two-day Information Disorder West Africa Conference(IDWAC) as a part of the PTCIJ’s DUBAWA week for truth activities in Abuja.
“Twitter was the most widely used platform to propagate false information during the 2020 gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states,” the report partly reads.
PTCIJ is a non- governmental organisation founded in 2014, to promote a truly independent media landscape that advances fundamental human rights, good governance and accountability in West Africa through investigative journalism, open data and civic technology.
According to the report, four notable claims posted at the heart of the elections were taken down from Twitter after the elections, which implies a deliberate malicious effort by those who posted them to share false claims during the election and delete them afterwards.
It said with 23 claims emerging from Twitter, representing 62.16 per cent of the distribution, the platform stood out as the major medium on which claims appeared during both elections.
“While TV (13.51%) and blog/websites (8.11%) were also used, platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp were surprisingly under-used by claimants during both elections,” the report stated.
Both reports launched, analyzed and studied the typologies present in the information disorder ecosystems studied by Dubawa, an independent fact checking platform headquartered in Abuja, during the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections held September 19 and October 10 of last year.
The analysis of the reports is geared towards identifying key characters, tracing the connections between claims and claimants, uncovering hidden patterns in the transmission of claims during the election process and also investigate audience behaviour on disinformation, misinformation or “information disorder”.
According to the topological analysis report of both elections under review, most of the misinformation and disinformation targeted at the both elections were executed through diverse social media platforms two months to the election days.
“Also notable was the gradual increase in the number of misinformation claims prior to the election which reached its peak on the day of the election,” the report reads.
Commenting on the reports during the launch, former Kaduna senator, Shehu Sani, who attended the launch, said he believed the content of the reports will help policy makers and world players on the ground to see the facts.
In her remarks, Osai Ojigho, country director, Amnesty International, while congratulating the Dubawa team for a work well done, noted that without data and information citizens will continue to wallow in bubbles of disinformation.
“And this is something that will definitely be taken forward from here,” she added.
Mboho Eno, project officer, Media in Nigeria Election (MiNE), urged electors to always verify contents before redistributing.
“When they are not sure, the Dubawa team is always available to help fact check claims,” he added.
Adedeji Adekunle, research lead for the reports, said the purpose of the interrogation in the research was to identify the exact issues in the election implementation process most affected by information disorder and understand how exactly stakeholders can intervene and curb such exacerbating factors.
“It is important to have knowledge and evidence driven argumentation when attempting to prescribe interventions for such critical governance issues,” he said.
He said: “We also attempted to understand the consumer patterns on different information and media channels as well as interrogate the actors and disinformation strategies observed during these two election events.”
“We hope to invest a lot more in building knowledge around these issues as we prepare for the 2023 elections,” the researcher added.
According to the launched reports shared with participants, data used in the analysis of the both elections ( Ondo and Edo) were based on the verified and published claims documented by Dubawa.
The data used was gathered between August and October 2020, which complemented the beginning through the end of the election processes.
Conclusion and recommendations
The disinformation in election reports highlights in its conclusions that false claims represent about 45.95 per cent of the total number of claims analyzed.
It said this suggests that untruths, disinformation and misinformation are still prevalent on the internet.
The researchers identified that the intermediacy and increasing rate of Twitter usage amongst Nigerians must have given it an edge during the elections.
Overall, the report said the high level of false claims during both the 2020 gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively shows that ‘information disorder’ poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s fragile democracy.
“This calls for informed fact-checking during such times, as an antidote to possible corruption of future elections,” the report said.