By Nathaniel Gana
Social media giant, FACEBOOK and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have agreed to explore ways to expand voter education and engage citizens meaningfully to achieve peaceful general elections in the 2019.
This indication emerged when a team from FACEBOOK, led by its Public Policy Director for Africa, Mrs Ebele Okobi paid a courtesy visit to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at the INEC Headquarters in Abuja on 21st February.
Prof. Yakubu told the team that the business of organising and conducting elections was a huge responsibility for the Commission that also comes with enormous risks.
He said: “A good election, I have always said, is a recipe for peace and a poorly conducted election could lead to violence and civil war. And part of it is the perception some people create on the social media”.
Prof. Yakubu acknowledged the large followership the Commission enjoys on the FACEBOOK platform, the largest among Election Management Bodies in Africa, and underscored its potentials for engaging citizens, disseminating information and dispelling fake news for peaceful elections.
He noted that the FACEBOOK platform has become one of the veritable means of interacting with the public. “I think more people now get their news from the social media than the traditional media,” he said.
The INEC Chairman thanked FACEBOOK for pulling down fake pages of the Commission from its platform just as it commended the social media giant for also putting mechanisms for checking hate speech and fake news in place.
He said the Commission looked forward to cooperating with FACEBOOK in ensuring that the voting population gets the best to help them make informed choices.
Earlier, Mrs Ebele Okobi noted that with a membership base of 2.1 billion worldwide and 80 million from Nigeria, FACEBOOK had recognized that the topics people mostly shared were about elections and politics.
She said: “People care very deeply about how they are governed, about who governs them and other political issues. Knowing that people come to the platform to talk about what they care about, we have developed a politics and government programme essentially to understand how our platform is being used, not just during elections, but also to help governments engage with their citizens and also to see what the risks related to our platform in elections are and what opportunities and programmes can be put in place to address the risks”.
Mrs. Okobi said the company was open to ideas on how best it could improve its services and the electoral processes in Africa, especially in Nigeria.