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Fake news, a major threat to 2019 general elections – Lai Mohammed

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, revealed on Thursday, the biggest threat to the 2019 forthcoming general elections.

The minister, at the 47th meeting of the National Council on Information, in Abuja, said fake news and hate speech, if left unchecked, could constitute the biggest threat to the 2019 election.

He emphasized that with the 2019 general elections just months away, no issue was more important to the election than incessant hate speech and the issue of disseminating fake news.

Mohammed said fake news had the power to alter the course of a successful election, could also be a menace that transcended political party lines, religion, ethnicity, and even nationality.

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He cited the 2016 US Presidential elections and a recent violence in India where a dozen of people lost their lives as instances where fake news had major impacts.

“A recent study by researchers at the Ohio State University in the United States concluded that Russian interference and the fake news it promoted probably played a significant role in depressing Hilary Clinton’s support on the day of the country’s 2016 presidential elections,” he said

“Among the fake news circulated ahead of the election were: that Clinton is in poor health due to a serious disease: Pope Francis endorsed candidate Trump, and Clinton approved weapons sales to Islamic Jihadists,” Mohammed said.

“Even the winner of that election, President Donald Trump, is still reeling from the impact of the alleged Russian intervention,” he added.

“In India, about a dozen people lost their lives earlier this year because of fake news or hoax messages,” he said.

“The victims were lynched after they were falsely accused of child abduction based on fake messages circulated via the social media platform, WhatsApp,” the minister said.

Similarly, the minister said hate speech was a major catalyst of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which left at least 800,000 people dead.

He applauded the media, some government agencies and civil society organisations which had organised workshops and conferences to sensitise the nation on this issue.

He urged the governors and the administrators of the Local Government Authorities to complement the efforts of the federal government in fighting fake news and hate speech.


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