By Joel Popoola
Nigeria’s largest social media platform is finally fighting fake news – but not in Nigeria
Whatsapp is Nigeria’s biggest social network and can be found on the phones of 85% of Nigerian social media users, but too often the platform is used to spread dangerous misinformation.
During the last Ebola outbreak, Whatsapp users were told to bathe in saltwater to protect themselves from the deadly disease. As a result, at least two people died.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has been no different, with raw onion, olive oil, garlic and shaving all preposterously peddled as a “miracle cure” in a pandemic which has already claimed the lives of almost 1000 Nigerians.
This week, the app has finally taken action to stop the spread of fake news on its platform by introducing a magnifying glass icon next to messages forwarded at least five times.
By clicking on the icon users can quickly search the internet to see if the claims are true.
But not in Nigeria.
So far, only users in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are able to use the fact-checking service.
If people weren’t already using the internet to verify claims like ”the disease which has killed over 700,000 people around the world can be stopped in its tracks by leaving an onion on your carpet” before forwarding them to their friends and family, I’m not sure how much an emoji is likely to change – but at least it’s something.
But it is incredible that over 20 million Nigerian users are being excluded from this service – not least given the comparatively low levels of digital literacy in our nation compared to countries where the fact-checking facility is being rolled out.
Ultimately, Nigeria needs a high profile national digital literacy campaign to help social media users to better critically consider the information they see online.
With so much political information being shared online – much of it just as unreliable as the medical advice above – our democracy depends upon it as much as our health and safety.
This campaign must come hand-in-hand with a renewed effort to build a digitally-skilled workforce for the twenty-first century – with the World Bank estimating that less than one percent of African children currently leave school with basic programming computer skills.
We also need to remove data charges from online educational resources.
Whatsapp is Nigeria’s biggest social network simply because users do not need to use much data to access it. The fact the government remains indifferent to calls to make this the case for learning resources, especially when so many youngsters need helping catching up with their schooling after the disruption of the coronavirus, is impossible to understand.
Until then, we need social media companies to take the necessary steps to protect their users from fake news and harmful half-truths. And at the Digital Democracy campaign, which I lead, we’re already doing our bit.
Our free Rate Your Leader app allows voters to get vital information direct from their elected representatives, person to person, straight from their smartphone.
If they think the information they get isn’t reliable or honest, they can rate the source of that information accordingly, directing their neighbours to information sources which are reliable and credible.
At the same time, politicians can get potentially life-saving messages straight to people in their communities, as well as building a more accurate picture of what matters most to the people they serve.
My inspiration for the app came after spending time in Britain, where local politicians are much easier to contact than we are used to in Nigeria. I even managed to meet the Speaker of the British Parliament as a Nigerian living 300 miles away from London!
A lot of the time in Nigeria, we have no idea who our local leaders are and how we are supposed to contact them – and many of them seem happy to keep it that way!
Apps like Rate Your Leader are designed to tackle this, and help move our nation towards a new era of democratic transparency and accountability.
The digital age has the potential to reconnect people and politics without politicians or the people they serve ever having to leave their sofas.
Sadly, when it comes to being signposted to trustworthy information online, it is hard to escape the sense that the major social networks are once again allowing Nigeria to fall behind.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and digital democracy campaigner and is the founder of the free Rate Your Leader app. You can reach Joel on Twitter @JOPopoola or on Joel@rateyourleader.com
Court Slams N50m Fine on Senator Abbo for Assaulting Woman at Sex-Toy Shop
The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, on Monday, awarded N50m damages against the senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo, to be paid as compensation to a female attendant at a sex-toy shop, Osimibibra Warmate, whom he assaulted.
Justice Samira Bature gave the order in her judgment on the fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by Warmate against the senator.
The video clip of the alleged assault of the woman by the senator had gone viral.
The police had in 2019 charged before a magistrate court in Zuba, Abuja with one count of assaulting Warmate at a sex-toy shop in Abuja.
But the presiding magistrate, Abdullahi Ilelah, had dismissed the case after upholding the no-case submission filed by the senator.
Warmate, through her legal team including Esosa Omo-Usoh and Nelson Onuoha, went on to sue Abbo in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed before the FCT High Court and marked FCT/CV/2393/19.
Justice Bature upheld the plaintiff’s case in a judgment on Monday by ordering the senator to pay N50m to the applicant.
Boko Haram Ambushes Zulum’s Convoy, Kills 15 Officers
At least 15 security personnel comprising eight policemen, three soldiers and four Civilian-JTF personnel died today after suspected Boko Haram gunmen ambushed a convoy of Borno officials travelling to Baga town.
The attacked officials, according to sources familiar with the attack, were heading to Baga town ahead of government’s planned return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Maiduguri to the camps.
A battery of armed soldiers and police officers, as well as Civilian-JTF personnel, were deployed to provide escort to the officials.
The convoy ran into an ambush by Boko Haram at a spot called Korochara, which is about 2km away from the base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force on the way to Baga from Monguno.
“Seven policemen, four C-JTF members and three soldiers died instantly as the insurgents rained bullets on the unsuspecting members of the convoy,” an official of the Borno state government who wouldn’t want to be named told our reporter.
The source said the attack happened at about 2 pm
Borno state governor, Babagana Zulum, who is expected to supervise the arrival of the IDPs at Baga, had left Maiduguri earlier in the day via a military chopper.
The Borno State government and the security agencies whose personnel were affected are yet to officially comment on the attack.
The attack happened four days after a colonel, D.C. Bako, died after another ambush by Boko Haram terrorists.
Mr Bako was until his death the commander of 25 Task Force Brigade in Damboa. He died in a military hospital where he was receiving treatment after the ambush.
Food for Living: Listen to Your Inner Voice
By Henry Ukazu
In today’s contemporary world, we have many interests battling for our attention, especially with the advent of social media. Staying focused can therefore, be a challenge. As rational minds, we all have different thoughts and feelings, but what makes the difference is what we see and hear in our inner minds. For example, we all sit in the same classroom, but our level of comprehension and articulation is different. As a team working on a mission, your vision might be different from what others see, some might be there just to get paid while others might be there to transform the world. Even pain has a different feeling, some people might scream when they feel pain while another person might endure.
As a progressive on a journey to transform the world with your ideas, innovations, and personality, it might be difficult to get a team that believe in not only you, but also in your vision. Whether you are an entrepreneur, politician, student, religious leader, etc., you can challenge and change the status quo. Changing the world is not easy, in fact, it is not easy to change the world; it takes a lot to change a tradition that has been in place for decades, but it is interesting to know that it is easier to influence people than to change them, this is because human beings generally are resistant to change.
Question: Do you have a dream, vision, idea, or plan to bring a change in the society or government? Please bear in mind that it is not going to be easy. However, your concern should be on focusing on the reason it should work and not why it is not going to work. You may be wondering how you’ll achieve this feat when faced with glaring challenges. A great way to remain focused in the face of adversity is to listen to the still small voice in your inner mind. Your inner voice is the greatest strength you can muster when all other options fail. For instance, if you have a strong belief in your network, mentor, friend, parent, associate, or relation to support your work and they disappoint you, what will you do? Will you perish your idea?
Again, you may have strong networks, but they may not see hope in what you are doing. What then will you do? If you strongly feel the vibe and urge to continue in your vision, please listen to your inner voice. A good way to know if your voice is leading you aright is the presence of peace of mind.
For instance, if you need to make a decision at the moment, but can’t figure out what to do, take a moment to take a deep breath, relax and meditate on the pros and cons of the idea. It’s called the law of mental transformation. Success is not a product of what you do alone, it is as a result of who you are becoming than what you are doing. True success is a product of who you are. It should be noted that the mind is like a garden. A garden won’t stay fallow. It either grows flowers and vegetables or weeds, depending on the seeds you sow on it. Your mind will either manifest success or failure depending on the thoughts you feed with it.
Furthermore, it is normal to complain when the line doesn’t add up. For instance, when you lose your biggest clients; feel cheated in business, or even lose a loved one, there are many voices that will give you cogent reasons you shouldn’t continue in that line of business or see the loss of the loved as the end of your vision, especially if the person serves as your biggest supporter or inspiration. But if you are able to think out of the box, you may realise that there are forces or circumstances that may work in your favour without you knowing due to the demise of the person.
Let me share a personal experience with you; three years ago, I quit a good job with no prospect of another job insight because I felt the urge to see my late grandmother, promote my book and get married. Amongst these three reasons, my grandmother has a bigger role and influence because I constantly see her in my dream pleading with me to see her. I didn’t know why, but maybe because I was one of her favourite grandchildren if not the most favourite grandchild. I took the bull by the horn and resigned and traveled to see her, not only did she bless me, she prayed for my book and professional career. I have no iota of doubt that her blessings and prayers have continued to play a huge role in my life. There is a saying that when you lose a loved one, don’t grief much because they have gone to prepare a better opportunity for you. In fact, they are seen as guardian angels.
In conclusion, just so you know, just like your greatest supporter can be your family member, friend, network or stranger, in the same way, they can serve as detractors. Your primary concern is how you can listen to your inner voice and dare to succeed.
Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org