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Nigeria asks social media giants to curb fake news ahead of election

By Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria has asked Google and Meta to control the spread of fake news on their platforms ahead of a presidential election this month, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Friday.

Nigerians go to the polls on Feb. 25 to elect a new president, with three frontrunners promising to deal with the rising cost of living, insecurity and a slow-growing economy.

Mohammed said he met with Meta and Google representatives in Abuja on Friday and requested that they make posts from official channels visible on their platforms, and flag as unverified election results originating from unofficial sources.

He also asked the two companies to work with the security services to take down posts capable of inciting violence.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage. The country is home to millions of internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular.

Mohammed's request comes after he asked Google last year to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by secessionist and Islamist militant groups in the country.

"These actions, if executed, will go a long way in checking the proliferation of fake news and disinformation on social media ahead of, during and after the elections," Mohammed said.

A Google representative at the meeting, Dawn Dimowo, said Google had trained about 6,000 journalists in addition to engaging and expanding the scope of fact-checking platforms such as Dubawa to identify and flag fake news.

Meta's Head of Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze, said the organization has set up an election protection operating centre with 60-80 people working round-the-clock to ensure its platforms are not used to discredit the election.

(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; editing by Nellie Peyton and Mark Heinrich)