The Safeguarding Online Civic Space (SOCS) says it has designed strategies to stop all forms of disinformation, misinformation, fake news and violence incitement on the cyberspace in Nigeria’s upcoming general elections.

The group made this known on Wednesday in Abuja while briefing the media on “Safeguarding Civic Space for Electoral Integrity (SDSEI)”, ahead of the Feb. 25, and March 11, 2023, general elections.

Dr Funmi Akinyele, the Chair, SOCS Group, said that the overarching goal of this particular project is to protect online civic space by upholding the integrity of the electoral process, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

Akinyele said that to effectively achieve this, the SOCS Group have trained youths across the six geopolitical zones to spot and detect fake news, especially as it concerns the elections.

“As the general elections are approaching, the overarching goal of this project is to protect online civic space by combating voter misinformation and disinformation while improving access to accurate civic information inclusively.

“Unfortunately, some individuals, either by omission or commission, have distorted information, leading to misinformation, disinformation and malformation.

“The misuse and repression of both offline and digital civic spaces, no doubt, have contributed to the perceptions, mostly negative, of members of the international community about Nigeria.

“To address this, the Safeguarding Digital Civic Space for Electoral Integrity (SDSEI) project is engaging critical stakeholders across government, telecommunications, civil society, and the general public who have been united by an overarching interest in protecting the online civic space to maximize the benefits and minimise the threats for proper enlightenment and education of the populace on their civic rights.

“Regarding the general elections, irrespective of cultural, religious and political affiliations we have trained 100 fact checkers across the country and right now they are working to fact check the elections as well as the governorship elections.

“Because we are dealing with digital space, we are deploying factcheckers online to build a massive movement of people that will be able to spot fake news.

“We will use hashtags to drive home this message on our social media platforms and use for branding. The hashtags are: #ProtectYourVote9ja, #YourVoteMatters9ja #NoToFakeNews9ja,” Akinyele said.

Mr Al-Kasim Abdulkadir, Founder, Nigerian Numeric, said that the aim of the group is to safeguard the digital space for the electoral integrity of Nigeria.

Abdulkadir said that the key aim of the group under this project is to ensure that the integrity of the process is upheld by political actors, the citizens, government actors towards a peaceful, credible and transparent elections.

He said that SOCS Group is also out with the key message of urging Nigerians and political parties to refrain from announcing election results before they are announced by the electoral umpires.

“We have designed a variety of strategies, with a strong message of refrain, from misinformation, to disinformation, to vote buying, to campaigning against violence, to the use of BVAS device.

“Also mainstreaming the fact that we need to work with persons with disabilities.

“Whether you are a highly placed government officials or an ordinary citizen, we are calling for self-governances.

“That first of all, you must ensure your personal integrity and integrity of the message you send out on digital platforms.”

He added: “First, you must be able to verify these messages, and if you cannot verify these messages, do not send them out. If you are in doubt, do not share.

“If you deliberately disinform or misinform, then please be ready to face the consequences of your action because the long arm of the law is there to catch up with defaulters.

“Voters should not sit in their homes and announce results before results are announced. It is the primary responsibility of the electoral umpire to announce results.

“We should not make up news of violence where there is none, we should not exaggerate actions that take place during the elections.”

Abdulkadir said: “So we are calling for restraint from citizens, government, actors for self-governance.”

The group urged the media as watchdog of the society to support its efforts to combat voters’ misinformation and disinformation, improve inclusive voter and civic education.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the SOCS Group is a loose cluster of mostly youth-led Civil Society Organisations and Business Membership Organisations from diverse areas within the social sector.