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Experts canvass use of social media, electoral reforms, others in 2023 polls

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Experts have canvassed the use of social media, including Twitter and electoral reforms for the 2023 general elections, saying that investing in technology and digital capacity for electoral bodies would protect and promote the integrity of polls in Nigeria.

They spoke during a dialogue organised by Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Koffi Annan Foundation (KAF) in partnership with the Swiss Mission in Abuja, urging stakeholders to share information on threats to election integrity.

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Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Georg Steiner, said Nigerians have the opportunity to strengthen and protect their democracy in the digital age by adopting an election vulnerability index for close monitoring of the polls online to guide against misinformation.

Steiner also added that social media and Twitter handles would go a long way to improve transparency in the 2023 general elections, but cautioned against using the technologies to manipulate the results, which he said, would lead to misinformation.

Also, Sebastian Brack, who presented the Koffi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age report, canvassed capacity building for national partnerships dedicated to defending the integrity of elections against weaponized propaganda.

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He argued that funding civil society organisations that counter hate speech, targeted harassment and the incitement of violence, especially prior to elections, should be taken seriously to help election management bodies (EMBs) develop expertise in best cybersecurity practice.

“We endorse the Transnational Commission on Election Integrity (TCEI) for candidates, parties and groups to sign agreements aimed at rejecting deceptive digital campaign practices, such as the use of stolen data or materials and manipulated imagery.

“Vendors of election equipment and services should commit to a code of conduct to guarantee that their products are secure and their business practices protect the rights, privacy and data of citizens in their client countries and adhere to honest, transparent practices in procurement,” he stated.

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On her part, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, stressed the need to help democracies build civic technology programmes through the teaching of coding, especially to women and minorities and by incorporating technical talent into government teams.

“Similarly, in Nigeria, it is increasingly difficult to draw a distinct line between contents shared on social media and information reported, or broadcast in print and electronic media. This is not a uniquely Nigeria challenge, even in Sierra Leone and Ghana,” she said.

Also, the Chairperson, House Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Aishatu Dukku, advocated that the modes of accountability, strengthening legal and regulatory regimes and self-regulation by social media companies, such as shallow fakes, production, use, spreading of falsified or fabricated materials should be enforced.

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