Twitter and Nigerian IT regulators were in the middle of talks to check fake news when the government suspended the social media service over the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet, Technology Times can confirm.
Twitter, the U.S. tech giant, approached the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) offering to roll out Birdwatch, its fact-checking programme aimed to check fake news and misleading information on the social media service, particularly those affecting the Nigerian government, people conversant with the situation told Technology Times on condition of anonymity.
Under the proposed collaboration, Twitter wanted to extend BirdWatch to Nigeria, and give government officials the capabilities to authenticate selected information shared by Twitter users before they go live on the social media service.
“Any user’s post flagged by Twitter will be held for 24 hours, while relevant government officials will be granted access to validate the authenticity of the information and possibly add notes that provide some context, before they are shared with the public”, according to a Technology Times source.
The plan to extend Birdwatch to Nigeria will offer the government officials participating in the fact-checking programme to help address the spread of propaganda and misinformation on Twitter.
The Nigerian IT regulator and Twitter were at advanced stages of the talks before the controversy sparked by the deletion of President Buhari’s tweet made the Nigerian government suspend the operation of Twitter in Nigeria, people conversant with the situation told Technology Times on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the U.S., home of Twitter, was the pilot market for the Birdwatch launch which the social media service says will help check propaganda and misinformation online.
“Birdwatch participants can identify Tweets they believe are misleading, write notes that provide context on the Tweet, and rate the quality of other participants’ notes. Through consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors, our eventual goal is that community-written notes will be visible directly on Tweets, available to everyone on Twitter”, Keith Coleman, Vice President, Product at Twitter, explains in a statement announcing the pilot rollout of the fact-checking programme in the U.S.
According to him, “people come to Twitter to stay informed, and they want credible information to help them do so. We apply labels and add context to Tweets, but we don’t want to limit efforts to circumstances where something breaks our rules or receives widespread public attention. We also want to broaden the range of voices that are part of tackling this problem, and we believe a community-driven approach can help. That’s why today we’re introducing Birdwatch, a pilot in the US of a new community-driven approach to help address misleading information on Twitter.”
Meanwhile, Technology Times learnt that the Twitter talks with the Nigerian IT regulator may have been cut short by the suspension of its operation in the country after the service was accused of allegations of undermining Nigeria.
The Information and Culture Minister who announced the Twitter ban says the government took the decision because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
According to the Minister, Over The Top (OTT) and social media services will henceforth be required to obtain local operating licences, in what will require their operations to come under local laws and regulatory purview.
The Nigerian Government also says that apart from obtaining licences, the OTT and social media services will have to register locally with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to operate as a business in Nigeria.