2019 Election: Media Organizations Launches fact Checking Program, Unites Against Fake News

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By Christel Odili

No fewer than 15 Nigerian news organisations has joined forces on Wednesday to fight misinformation ahead of February’s elections in a collaborative first as the country’s main political parties trade accusations of fabrication and exaggeration.

This collaboration involving 15 media organisations is being established through a training project tagged “CrossCheckNigeria,” is facilitated by First Draft, a United Kingdom organisation fighting misinformation globally, in collaboration with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

First Draft’s Claire Wardle said that CrossCheck Nigeria is building on what First Draft and its partners learned about misinformation on WhatsApp from the Comprova project in Brazil, which ultimately collected nearly 70,000 audience tips via WhatsApp.

The Managing Director of First Draft, Jenni Sargent, addressing participants at the opening session of the training programme (Photos reddit, Tribune)

She said, the project was aimed at improving the quality of information for the unsuspecting general public, stating that CrossCheck Nigeria would also help to debunk misinformation and fake news and sanitise the media space in the run-up to coming Nigeria’s general elections.

Sargent further disclosed that, the boot camp was designed to teach the participants about the new verification technology to be deployed for the project, and how to work in the media coalition, adding that the project will help the public to understand not only what to trust, but also why to trust a particular information.

speaking, the Executive Director of ICIR, Mr Dayo Aiyetan, who expressed concern about the “weaponisation of information” which he said was either to deceive the public or injure the reputation of opponents.

“The recent local elections in the country have shown that the social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have become avenues for politicians to spread misinformation, rumour, falsehood and fake news,” Aiyetan said.

He, however, noted that the media had a responsibility to verify the information being churned out on social media to ensure that they were true.

“Journalists need to learn the skills to verify and fact-check such misinformation and debunk them before they mislead people or cause harm,” Aiyetan said.

The ICIR boss explained that under the project, the participating organisations would work together in disproving fake news or misinformation for greater impact on members of the public.

CrossCheck Nigeria will ask the Nigerian public to send rumors related to the national elections to a CrossCheck WhatsApp account; the CrossCheck account will share correct information back, and encourage the people who sent it originally to share it with their groups. Nigerian partner-newsrooms so far include The Premium Times, Daily Trust, The Punch, The Guardian, News Agency of Nigeria, Sahara Reporters, Agence France-Presse (AFP), The Nation, Tribune, ThisDay, Africa Check, The Sun, Channels Television, The Cable, Freedom Radio, First Draft, Connected Development, The University of Lagos’ Department of Mass Communication, and The International Center for Investigative Reporting.

The CrossCheck Nigeria project aims to get normally competing newsrooms to work together to investigate and disprove erroneous claims, particularly on social media,  the project aims to get normally competing newsrooms to work together to investigate and disprove erroneous claims, particularly on social media.

The online platform for the initiative, http://crosschecknigeria.org/ which is a collaborative information verification project powered by the British organisation and Nigeria’s ICIR billed for a formal launch on Wednesday, November 28, will be coordinated by the ICIR, an independent and non-profit news platform in Nigeria.Completed investigations will appear on a central platform only when at least five partners have approved the work, in a move designed to improve public understanding and trust.

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