Niger’s Fake News Ecosystem-CDD

Niger’s first private media entities emerged in the 1990s following the fall of the single-party and military era. However, the birth of private media did not lead to free and independent media. A bipolar media system quickly took shape, with public media tending to support the ruling party and private media siding with the opposition. This bipolarism continues today and Nigeriens’ trust in a particular media correlates strongly with their relation to their political allegiance, Radio is the most listened to, and is perceived to be, the most reliable source of information. Low literacy rates and the fact that most Nigeriens live in rural areas with no access to electricity can partially explain this. But with the growing internet access via a mobile phone connection, more and more Nigeriens are becoming social media users. Facebook and WhatsApp which allow users to record, share, and receive audio and video messages have become popular even amongst people who cannot write and read in French, the official language. While these social media platforms facilitate instantaneous communication and sharing of information, they have also become the privileged terrain for the dissemination of fake news. Such fake news is not just confined to the online realm but spreads through pre-existing word of mouth networks. Marketplaces, family gatherings, and les grins, which are popular youth hangout spots, are places where gossips and fake news circulate with the potential of reaching far more people who may not have access to social media.