Building Capacity of Nigerian Social Media Producers/Bloggers in Countering Hate Speech & Fake News

Building Capacity of Nigerian Social Media Producers/Bloggers in Countering Hate Speech & Fake News

A two days workshop was organized by Media Awareness and Information for All Network (MAIN), supported by  United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the  IPDC project.

Day One – 13-10-2020

The facilitator Dr Oluseyi Soremekun in his presentation gave an overview of the project objective which he stated is to provide skills and knowledge for developing gender sensitive, hate-free, factual news and fact- checked content for 32 bloggers, social media producers (with 50% women and 50% men) through research, guide book and training courses in two locations; Lagos and the FCT respectively.

Brief on the IPDC project by Dr Oluseyi Soremekun:

The workshop commenced with presentation by Dr Oluseyi Soremekun on the IPDC project. He stated that the project is atop development platform supporting communication across the globe which is meant to promote a wider and better balanced dissemination of information with no obstacle to freedom of expression.

He further introduced MAIN which he stated is an organisation working at the forefront of media literacy, investigative journalism with focus on female journaliststhrough researches.  He also said it’s an organisation committed to supporting media for sustainable development and promoting information for all in a bid to strengthen freedom of expression and public access to information as a critical component of democratic governance in Nigeria.

 Prof. Lai Oso gave an overview of Digital Media in Nigeria. 

News Channels VS Social Media Platforms:

Prof. Lai Oso defined Digital Media Online news channels as any information that is broadcasted via screen which could include texts, audios, videos and graphics that is transmitted over the internet for viewing online while the social media platform are interactive technologies that facilitates the creation or sharing of information, ideas, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks

Social Media Vs Traditional Media: The facilitator went on to compare social media to the traditional media which he stated that social media reaches a maximum audiencethan traditional media and it’s generally targeted. He further said that social media is versatile because changes can be made after publication whereas the traditional media once published it cannot be changed/edited therefore social media is a two-way conversation with unreliable demographic data while traditional media on the other handis one-way with more accurate data.

Challenges of Blogging in Nigeria:

The following were identified by participants as challenges of blogging in Nigeria.

1. Issue around verifying sources.
2. The issue of using unverifiable/ fake sources on posts by bloggers/content producers.
3. The issue of manipulated sources by politically influential persons.
4. The issue of bribery of social media persons to circulate fake news (commercialisation of fake news).


  Prof. Lai Oso also spoke on Social Media and Democracy. In this session, Prof Lai Oso highlighted the various transformational impact many social media institutions have which includes; the change in media and communication with impact felt in the political and democratic processes and how it has affected corporate-organizationsreligion, among others. He also said the internet and digitalization have led to a more open media space with abundant media channels which have enhanced better citizen participation and engagement in democratic processes and accountability. He also stated that these processes have enhanced freedom of expression and press. The media he said provide the information, education as well as knowledge required by citizens to electively participate in the political democratic processes, and it also serves as a watchdog in the society. It further provides civic forum which facilitates diversity of voices in public debates. The media is considered the fourth estate of the realm and it is conceptualized by the role it plays in democracy with freedom and access as key requirements.

The failing nature of the present traditional media he said is due to the following factors;

1. Ownership and control
2. Commercialization
3. Pressure and manipulation by the political actors
4. Elite orientation (lack of plurality and diversity in the news, marginalization of voices of the poor and, gender biases).
5. Media production routines, professional ideology and organizational structures among others.

Understanding Social media: 

Here he analysed various definitions from various authors as regards the meaning of social media as listed below;

• These are network sites comprising “a number of internet websites set up to enable and encourage users to create networks of acquaintances and also to share messages and audio-visual material often available to a wider public” (McQuail, 2010, pg.570)
• Social media employ mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms via which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss and modify user generated content (Kietzmann et al, 2011, p.241).
• Castells calls them a new form of socialized communication or simply mass self-communication. He further describes them as self-generated in reception by many that communicate with many” (Castell, 2010, p.9) examples are facebook, twitter, whatsapp and so on. 

Therefore, the enthusiasm about the new/social media is based on their features/ characteristics which distinguish them from the traditional/ old media.

Day Two – 13-10-2020

A interactive session on Social Media, Public Good and National Security delivered by Abubakar Khalid (Content Editor with Daily Trust). In this session, Abubakar Khalid exposed participants to their ought most responsibilities as content producers/ bloggers and further probed their interests as regards the common good as well aidentified the gaps to be filled with the following questions;

✓ Is there a conflict between National Security and Blogging?
✓ What is responsible war crisis reporting?
✓ Whose interest is a blogger/content producer serving?

The facilitator explained the conflict between national security and blogging while highlighting the need for bloggers/content producers whom he referred to as gate keepers to always consider the interests of those who consume their contents with national security at the front burner. He also urged participants to avoid the use of false figures while reporting in a crisis situation so as to avoid panic or fear.

Furthermore, he stated that the first responsibility as journalists/bloggers/content producers is to hold the government accountable having in mind that not all information should be published, and before publishing your contents question everything, make findings, consider the context, make sure it doesn’t endanger others, make sure it aligns with public interestsremember to always put your emotions under check especially on issues of conflict of interest, make sure your reports are for the good of all, be sure you are always guided by the humanitarian law on crisis and war and avoid publication or circulation of gory pictures from wars or crisis as this content may traumatize the younger consumers/ family members/relatives of the victims and it shows disregard to the sanctity of human life as well. Therefore, always use your discretion and if you have to go under cover as the case may be consider always the safety of your sources and the interest of the people they serve.

In another Session, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun spoke on Combating Fake News in the Media. 

He started the session with a brief history on when fake news started trending in Nigeria and the presenter stated that it could be traced to 2016.He further said that Nigeria is ranked22 among countries with interest in fake news with Lagos, FCT, and Rivers as the lead states amongst the states in Nigeria.

He highlighted various views by different authors on definition of fake news. He said fake news is not news because it is not verifiable, and does not meet the standards nor deserve the label of “news” rather it’s a deliberate production and dissemination of misleading contents for the purposes other than public good. Continuing he listed the various types of fake news as contained in Verstraete, et al (2017) which he said was based on the intention to deceive readers which is either financial or non-financial motivations as below;

I. Satire – This is a purposefully false content financially motivated but not intended to deceive readers.
II. Hoax – is purposefully false content, financially motivated, intended to deceive readers.
III. Propaganda –is purposefully biased or false content, motivated by an attempt to promote a political cause or point of view intended to deceive the reader.
IIII. Trolling – is biased or fake content, motivated by an attempt to get personal humour value, intended to deceive the reader.

With examples he explained further how participants would be able to identify fake news and listed the concerns associated with fake news. It heats up polity and threatens democratic governance by so doing jeopardising public peace;it erodes public trust in government and weakens community participation in governance, among others. He also elaborately explained the critical themes of fake news, means through which they can be addressed and what reporters should look out for (guide) during identification.

Handling Fake News –  

Participants were thought how to handle fake news which included checking the timeliness of the information, the importance of the information, the source of the information, reliability and correctness of contents, as well as the reason for the information. He also urged participants to consult facts checking sites like the CRAAP by Sarah (2004), the UN verified campaign (2020) which only requires consideration of the 5 W(who made it? what is the source of the information? where did it come from? why are you sharing this? and when was it published) before sharing contents as well as other related sites for further assistance.

Another lecture on Combating Hate Speech in the Media was delivered by Dr. Jide Jimoh. Dr. Jide Jimoh in his presentation stated that there is no universal definition of the hate speech but highlighted the conditions for hate speech as drawn from Centre for Information, Technology and Development (CITAD). CITAD he said, operationalized hate speech as that speech which insults people for their religion, desecrates symbols of cultural or religious practices, abuses people for their ethnic or linguistic affiliations, expresses contempt against people because of their place of origin, discriminate women because of their gender, among others.(CITAD 2017:3) .

Therefore, the test for hate speech should consider the content and context of use with specification on meeting the standards.

Considerations for Hate Speech –

The following were identified by the facilitator as the considerations for hate speech;

1. Status of the speaker – How might their position influence their motivesShould they be listened to or just ignored?
2. Reach of the speaker – How far is the speech travelingIs there a pattern for the behaviour?
3. Goals of the speech – how does it benefit the speaker? Is it deliberately intended to cause harm to others?
4. The content itself – is the speech dangerous? Could it incite violence toward others?
5. What is the surrounding climate in terms of social, economic and political and who might be negatively affected? Is there a history of conflict or discrimination?
Photos from the event below:

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