The number of active social media users in Nigeria has risen from 27 million, in 2019, to 36 million ahead of the 2023 elections. But given the challenge of prevailing misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms, and the way such disinformation can permeate into the media more generally1, greater access to online information does not necessarily create more informed citizens. In fact, in Nigeria, it has confused the citizenry while entrenching pre-existing divides based on ethnicity and religion especially as mal-information, a deliberate sharing of genuine information with an intent to cause harm thrives in this election.
Ahead of the forthcoming polls, renewed sophistication and organisation in the push of disinformation has been observed with efforts generally focused on glorifying or delegitimising political candidates and undermining the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
At the same time online organisation remains largely informal, in part by design, with political parties driving disinformation behind the scenes through unofficial party accounts or hired influencers. In 2023, in addition to the use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, TikTok, with its predominantly video content that can bridge educational divides, is playing an increasingly important role. So too are Twitter Spaces, which are recorded and then shared, as a podcast, across social media platforms in ways that increases listenership.
Cross-platform posting remains critical to understanding Nigeria’s digital ecosystem as screen grabs or content from one platform can be shared across all others, broadening the reach beyond the number of direct users. Content also moves from online forums into offline spaces with soldiers of mouth spreading online content through streets talks, in motor parks and at newspaper stands.
This report looks at the key actors, platforms, disinformation tactics, instruments and the impact of different online campaign techniques ahead of the coming elections.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Idayat Hassan is the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development and an expert in development and security studies in the region. She is a senior fellow of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and is regularly quoted and cited by international publications.
|ABOUT THE CENTRE FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT |
The Centre was established to mobilise global opinion and resources for democratic development and provide an independent space to reflect critically on the challenges posed to the democratisation and development processes in West Africa, and also to provide alternatives and best practices to the sustenance of democracy and development in the region.