The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has begun the training of 37,000 Nigerians on fact-checking techniques aimed at curbing misinformation in the media and social media platforms.
The Director-General of NOA, Alhaji Garba Abari, said this on Tuesday at a three-day Capacity Building Course on Fact-Checking Techniques for selected participants from government establishments, civil society and private sector in Abuja.
Abari said that the agency planned to train 1,000 fact-checkers in each state of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, particularly on fake news and hate speech.
According to him, the training will be done for a period of five years as captured in the agency’s five-year Strategic Work Plan from 2021 to 2026.
The director-general said that the purpose of training was to raise an army of patriots who would work towards curbing the menace of hate speech, fake news and cybercrime for development.
“The upsurge of fake news in our country has assumed alarming and dangerous proportion, capable of heating up the polity and destroying the very fabric of our national peace and unity.
“Fake news, as the name implies, is very fabrics often intended to instigate, cause hate, anger and acrimony with the main aim of causing disaffection, division, violence and even war.
“Fake news is outright falsehood; distorted or alternative facts purveyed as authentic news intended to mislead people, cause disaffection, confusion and chaos,’’Abari said.
According to him, it is better to prevent misinformation from spreading at all than to try to debunk it once it is spread.
“Debunks don’t reach as many people as misinformation, and they don’t spread nearly as quickly.
“If they do reach people, they generally struggle to erase the misinformation from public debates or our brains.
“Even when we have been told that the misinformation is false, research suggests it continues to influence our thinking.
“This capacity building course on fact-checking techniques will help to combat misinformation,’’he said.
Mrs Busola Ajibola, the Programme Manager, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, called on the users of social media to take little times to verify any information they got before posting it into social space.
“For instance, if they take five minutes to verify fake news, that five minutes can save 5,000 deaths as a result of misinformation,’’Ajibola said.
She lauded NOA for training Nigerians on fact-checking techniques, saying that the capacity building course would go a long way in curbing fake news in the nation’s social space.