Sorting Fact From Fiction : Nigeria's 2019 Election

Nigeria 2019 Election Fact-File

The Centre for Democracy and Development’s Election Analysis Centre (EAC) for the 2019 presidential and gubernatorial elections, represented the first attempt in Nigeria at running a rigorous fact-checking process before, during and after the electoral process of both presidential and gubernatorial elections. CDD’s specific mandate was to provide a filter and check on viral stories, that were demonstrably false. Or to confirm, with sources and justification, if certain events were true or with fact (s). To do this CDD worked in collaboration with the National Democratic Institute and the Premium Times. However, there is scope for greater collaboration with other like-minded institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the future. Nigeria 2019 Election Fact File

Methodology: Nigeria 2019 Election Fact File

Our methodology to achieve ‘Nigeria’s 2019 election fact-file’ during the elections, was a highly focused version of our usual fact-checking process. A small team of seven individuals each had individualised functions. We had two spotters who monitored the online space, including Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and WhatsApp groups. The groups we monitored had already previously been tagged in our ever-expanding database as sources of disinformation, through research and online mapping efforts that will be described further below. The spotters would then forward news stories that were popular (for example over a hundred shares on Twitter) to the fact-checkers.
This ensured that we highlighted and countered stories that were significant and prevented us from popularising false information [without fact (s)] that may not have reached a wide audience until our fact-check. The process for checking the validity of a story during the elections was facilitated by our nationwide-wide network of election observers² in each of Nigeria’s 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This meant that our fact-checkers could reach out to an observer in any state to confirm a story. Once the validity of a story was verified, the fact-check itself would be written and sent to our designer to be turned into an infographic. This infographic was published on Twitter³ with all the relevant hashtags to ensure better reach and visibility (Methodology employed for Nigeria 2019 election fact file).

Spotters vs Fact Checkers for Nigeria 2019 Election

Monitoring the online landscape is not just relevant for fact checking, but allowed our research team to collect examples of hateful, inflammatory or false content; find groups that were spreading it; and track trending topics and disinformation campaigns online. Groups and accounts that we initially found led us to more, which if significant were added to our list online sources to be observed in future. In our online monitoring, we were able to identify three key content types that we subsequently focused on:

  1. Election logistic
  2. Election-related violence videos
  3. Conspiracy theories

Images or videos were analysed using tools such as reverse-image search to verify their origins and see if the content had appeared elsewhere. The fact checking process for a single story could take up to one hour and involved detecting a trending story – sometimes shared on private WhatsApp groups⁴, reaching out to our observers in the field and then designing and publishing the fact-check. Our standard format was in the form of an infographic that clearly showed the material being fact-checked, whether it be a picture, or a headline or a tweet. We chose infographics because the format allows us to convey information in an easily consumable form. Our tracking showed that our infographics had on average, 20 interactions on Twitter. In looking for sources of fake news, we were able to map the partisan nature of the online landscape. (Nigeria 2019 Election Fact File)
Download: Sorting Fact from Fiction.
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