Meta, formerly the Facebook company, recently paid a courtesy visit to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to discuss mutual interests and collaboration to tackle harmful content and educate Nigerians on avoiding ugly trends that hamper the country’s socio-economic and political space.
According to the director general of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa CCIE, the collaborative effort between NITDA and Meta is apt given the continued circulation of fake news and misinformation on social media, which poses a threat to the nation’s stability. He explained that as a leading partner, Meta has to be transparent about its efforts to the public to checkmate the excesses of the perpetrators.
“How can we make it better in order to make sure that the menace of Fake News is reduced to the barest minimum,” he said. “People don’t read messages, not to talk about verifying its authenticity. Therefore, adopting a simpler verification mechanism will reduce the spread of unsubstantiated news.”
The Meta team, led by the Head of Public Policy, Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze, and her colleagues from WhatsApp, shared the steps the social media company has taken to combat misinformation in Nigeria, including partnering with various stakeholders to run educational and awareness campaigns.
Speaking during the visit, Ikenze said that the visit is the beginning of a much more cooperative and collaborative relationship with NITDA, noting that the social media company understands the importance and value Meta platforms and products bring to the country.
“We recognise that misinformation and false news particularly is becoming a huge problem, and we have worked very hard to build out strategies to try to inform and educate Nigerians to mitigate the harms around this by launching a Meta campaign called #NoFalseNewsZone and a WhatsApp campaign called #YouSaid in Nigeria.”
Commenting further on innovation in digital technology, Inuwa said that things have changed now, and there is nothing like a digital space. “What makes digital space are physical computers, network cables, humans that use the computers and so on – these are what make up the digital space that exists in a sovereign nation. He further said that Nigeria’s journey to the realisation of digital literacy by 2030 remains sacrosanct, as it is critical to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“We cannot do it alone, and we have an ambitious target. We need partners like you to achieve that,” he told the Meta team. “You equally need people that will consume your services, and they need to be digitally literate before accessing them.”
The visiting team from Meta also took turns making their presentations, as team members explained how WhatsApp embarked on a localised radio campaign to encourage people to verify messages before sharing them with others, including how Meta has partnered with Comic Republic to launch a 20-page comic book aimed at helping people think critically about the messages they consume and create online, identify false news, and know the actions to take to minimise its spread.
While appreciating the company’s support in broadband penetration, the NITDA DG added that there are other areas of collaborative efforts between NITDA and Meta, especially in digital literacy. He added that an online massive open course platform is being developed that will facilitate courses in Nigerian Languages in which the Agency needs their support to achieve that.