Cross Check: Nigerian media collaborate against fake news ahead of 2019 elections

The Managing Director of First Draft, Jenni Sargent, addressing participants at the opening session of the training programme

Nigerian media organisations have created a new front to combat fake news ahead of the forthcoming 2019 general elections in the country.

This collaboration involving 15 media organisations is being established through a training project tagged “CrossCheckNigeria,” is facilitated by First Draft, a United Kingdom organisation fighting misinformation globally, in collaboration with International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

The online platform for the initiative, which is a collaborative information verification project powered by the British organisation and Nigeria’s ICIR billed for a formal launch on Wednesday, November 28, will be coordinated by the ICIR, an independent and non-profit news platform in Nigeria.

To develop a capacity for the project, about 46 journalists from the 15 selected media organisation, involving both the traditional and new media were gathered for a two-day boot camp training programme which began in Lagos on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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The Managing Director of First Draft, Jenni Sargent, addressing participants at the opening session of the training programme said, the project was aimed at improving the quality of information for the unsuspecting general public.
She said the CrossCheck Nigeria would also help to debunk misinformation and fake news and sanitise the media space in the run-up to coming Nigeria’s general elections.

Sargent said, the boot camp was designed to teach the participants about the new verification technology to be deployed for the project, and how to work in the media coalition, adding that the project will help the public to understand not only what to trust, but also why to trust a particular information.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of ICIR, Mr Dayo Aiyetan, who expressed concern about the “weaponisation of information” which he said was either to deceive the public or injure the reputation of opponents.

“The recent local elections in the country have shown that the social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have become avenues for politicians to spread misinformation, rumour, falsehood and fake news,” Aiyetan said.

He, however, noted that the media had a responsibility to verify the information being churned out on social media to ensure that they were true.

“Journalists need to learn the skills to verify and fact-check such misinformation and debunk them before they mislead people or cause harm,” Aiyetan said.

The ICIR boss explained that under the project, the participating organisations would work together in disproving fake news or misinformation for greater impact on members of the public.

To achieve the aim of the project, Aiyetan said, the participating organisations which include, Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian, Punch, Daily Trust, The Sun, NAN, Thisday, The Nation, Sahara Reporters, ICIR and Agence France-Presse (AFP), Channels Television, Freedom Radio, Premium Times and The Cable, will work together in disproving fake news or misinformation,

This, according to him, will have a greater impact on members of the public, especially on how they respond to information and how such is processed for communal actions.

The essence of this coalition of news organisations in Nigeria coming together to combat misinformation, fake news and other information disorders that might have a negative impact on the coming polls, is to help the unsuspecting public against being misled by those who circulate the fake news.

The goal of the collaborative verification project is also “to help improve the quality of information available to the voting public, debunk misinformation and fake news and sanitise the media space in the run-up to the elections.”
The working together across different newsrooms in Nigeria will help in investigating claims and rumour circulating fast in the social media and debunk them before they go viral or do harm.

According to the facilitators, the project will be powered by a group of about 15 newsrooms across the country drawn from print, electronic and online media, through a central portal and then amplified by the project partners via their own channels and publications, ensuring more Nigerians gain access to accurate information.

The verification project is powered by First Draft, a UK-based organisation which has already developed a reliable technology to aid a rapid and amplified response to false, misleading and confusing information.

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