Nigeria in talks with social media giants to stem hate speech, fake news

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  • WhatsApp now let’s you know when messages are forwarded to reduce spread of fake news

By Nwakaego Alajemba and Oluwatobi Opusunju

Nigeria is in talks with social media giants: Google, Facebook and LinkedIn as the 2019 elections draw near and government gears up against hate speech and fake news.

In a series of formal and informal interactions, IT Edge News learnt government officials are impressing on Facebook and other cross-platform messaging services the need to assist authorities in combating the spread of fake news.

Facebook owns Whatsapp and Google owns Youtube – two of the most powerful messaging and video cross-platforms with mass instantaneous effect in several countries.

The highly encrypted Whatsapp and Telegraph platforms make message sharing among millions of people difficult to be affected by government’s regulations.

But rising hate speech and misinformation is forcing governments in several countries to make social media companies accountable for violations inspired or carried through their platforms.

In Nigeria, government is drawing up policy and legislative action plans to stem violence that may emanate from rising cases of fake news and hate speech. But it also believes an equally disruptive strategy is required to stem the fallouts of cross-platforms messaging services – all of which are disruptive technologies.

Recent cases of escalating mob actions and violence  against innocent citizens in India fuelled by fake news is making authorities in Nigeria more worried with the elections less than eight months away.

Violent herders and farmers clashes across several communities resulting in the death of hundreds of Nigerian citizens have provided gory images and video streams that have escalated hostilities.

These “are signals that government must act fast from a policy, legal and technology perspectives. A multi-level stakeholders approach is evidently require to act decisively against fake news and hate mongers,” said a presidency source who was part of the delegation on the recent U.S. investment roadshow that had several Nigerian public and private tech and entertainment stakeholders visiting Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

The delegation, which had talks with Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, was led by Vice President Yomi Osibanjo.

Whatsapp adds new feature against fake news

Meanwhile, Whatsapp has rolled out a new feature and this time, it is for you to know when someone sends you a forwarded message. According to the company, the feature is geared towards curbing the spread of fake news and misleading information.

WhatsApp in a statement posted on its blog, said its cares deeply about users’ safety and the new feature will encourage users to think before sharing messages that were forwarded.

In recent times, there have been an upsurge of fake news and malicious information being spread especially through social media platforms. World leaders have clamored that social media firms find a way to reduce the proliferation of such messages which is capable of leading to break down of security as well as put users in harm’s way.

With this new feature, users, to an extent will now be able to authenticate a message received and question the validity of same.

“Starting today, WhatsApp will indicate which messages you receive have been forwarded to you. This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It also helps you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it originally came from someone else,” the blog post read in part.

To see this new forwarded label, users need to have the latest supported version of WhatsApp on their phone.

Additionally, WhatsApp also rolled out a new group setting for ‘admins.’ Over the last few months, the social messaging platform has added new features that improve the groups’ experience. Some of these include group descriptions, a catch up feature, and protection for people who are being added repeatedly to groups they have left.

This time, the platform has launched a new group setting where only’ admins’ are able to send messages to a group.

WhatsApp explained that one way people use groups is to receive important announcements and information, including parents and teachers at schools, community centers, and non-profit organizations. It said this was why it introduced this new setting so admins can have better tools for these use cases.

For users to enable this new setting, they need to go to “Group Info” on the app, tap Group Settings > Send Messages and select “Only Admins.”

WhatsApp said this setting is rolling out to all users around the world on the latest supported versions of the app.

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