The Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) Tuesday disclosed that 80 percent of the social media followers of the major presidential candidates in the 2023 elections are robots.
According to codebots.com, “bot” is a shortened version of “robot”. Robots are programmable machines that can automatically execute actions, whereas bots are programmes that can automatically execute actions.
The Executive Director of the centre, Dr. Tobi Oluwatola, who spoke at the Nigerian Fact-Checkers’ Coalition Conference held in Abuja, particularly mentioned names of the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and Engr. Musa Rabiu Kwamkwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP).
The conference had ‘’Nigeria’s 2023 election; Curbing information disorder’’ as its theme.
Oluwatola, who said information disorder is a problem in elections, claimed that there are almost a million+ fake accounts directly following the major candidates on Twitter.
He said: “In January 2022, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had 1.1 million followers on Twitter. However, a significant increase occurred between June, July, August, and September. Tinubu now has 1.3 million followers on Twitter. IDAC finds that over 80 percent of these new followers are BoTs. These BoTs share a network between themselves and all were created between June, July, August, and September this year.
“In February 2022, Peter Obi had 1.5 million followers. However, between June, July, August and this September, a significant increase occurred to 1.9 million followers. IDAC finds that almost 75 percent of these new followers are BoTs. These BoTs share a connection, following each other in most cases.
“In February 2022, Atiku had 4.1 million followers, but between June, July, August and this September, the number increased to 4. 5 million followers. IDAC finds that 70 percent of these new followers are BoTs (Fake accounts). These BoTs share a sophisticated network and a connection with themselves. Although IDAC did not archive Kwankwaso’s initial followers on Twitter, the Kano politician also has massive BoT recruitment’’.
The CJID boss, while lamenting the duplicity of social media accounts particularly Twitter accounts, said those accounts were created to spread information disorder during election time.
He said: “In total, there are almost a million+ fake accounts directly following the major candidates on Twitter. BoTs are fake accounts that can efficiently fuel conversations online or boast a specific hashtag. These BoTs share a Network of connections. As such, they can easily mislead the public’’.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Mr. Dayo Aiyetan, alleged of a state-sponsored misinformation ahead of the 2023 elections.
Aiyetan, while calling on the stakeholders to team up to fight the menace of misinformation, cautioned that there will be more frequent misinformation, disinformation, weaponisation of information as the country goes to polls next year.
He said: “So we are at the moment in our country that will be decisive. We have seen in the campaigns, even campaigns have not started but we have seen how violence misinformation has become in the last few weeks. A couple of days ago, the ICIR and FactCheckHub published a fact-check calling out a minister in this government. We have seen state sponsored misinformation, which is very dangerous.
“We called out the Minister of Labour, Festus Keyamo, a respected person, and a lawyer, who was peddling falsehoods about one of the presidential candidates. Suffice to say that, that is why it is important that we are all working together. Suffice it to say that we know that there will be more frequent misinformation, disinformation, weaponisation of information.”
In his keynote address, the Vice Chancellor, Federal University Kashere, Gombe state, Professor Umaru Pate, called on the media houses to establish fact-checking desks to tackle misinformation and fake news.
Pate called on the media practitioners to interrogate politicians on their electioneering promises and fact check their claims.