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The dynamics of disinformation in electoral violence in Nigeria


The study examines the dynamics of disinformation in electoral violence in Nigeria. Many studies have been done on role of  disinformation in electoral violence in the Western world, yet the  role of disinformation in electoral violence remains understudied in  Nigeria. This is the gap the study intends to fill. Data for the study are  collected from archives, newspapers, journals, books and internets  sources including social media platforms – Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter  and Instagram which are analysed qualitatively using historical  approach. The study interrogates the change and continuity in the role of  disinformation in electoral violence from the era of traditional media to  the emergence of digital technology, 1964 to 2019. The study also  suggests measure to tackle the menace posed by disinformation,  especially in the Nigerian political space.  

Disinformation is regarded as an act that involves concocting and  spreading deliberately information that is not true with the aim of  causing harm and threat to the intended targets. The central theme in  disinformation is that the spreader is fully aware the information or news  item is false but shares to achieve a specific objective of injuring the  reputation of someone, institution, groups, or country. Disinformation is  misleading information that has the function of misleading someone  (Fallis 2015). This means disinformation deals with publishing misleading  information and the source/publisher derives gains from the  information disorder. It must be said that disinformation is as old as man  but has assumed more prominent space in recent times because of its  destructive and devastating effects on the society, following the  introduction of digital technology. Wardle and Derakhshan (2017) state  that ‘disinformation including misinformation has gained ground in the  community of activists, scholars, and non profit apologists attempting to  understand and mitigate these conditions.’ In addition, renewed interest  of scholars among others has led to further interrogation of the concept  and practice of disinformation.

Electoral violence is a situation where there is threat or actual violence,  thuggery, harassment and attacks on lives and property of opponents  during electoral cycle. The acts of violence are often triggered by either  deficit in the electoral process or deliberate attempt to gain undue  advantage by one of the contestants. Electoral violence usually has  negative impact on democratic governance because of its divisive and  destructive nature. Indeed, International Foundation for Election  Systems (2011) posited that electoral violence is “any violence (harm) or  threat of violence (harm) that is aimed at any person or property involved  in the election process, or at disrupting any part of the electoral or  political process during the election period.” The implication of this is that  electoral violence promotes underdevelopment and loss of lives and  property as well as states of instability and insecurity.  

Nigeria has witnessed electoral violence since the 1950s and the media  have played some roles in the violence. While the traditional media have  been very pivotal in contributing to entrenching democratic governance  in the country, some of the media houses have also helped to amplify  disinformation during electoral cycle which often snowballs into  violence. In the same vein, the emergence of digital media, especially  social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram just to mention a  few) has revolutionized the media space.  

This revolution can be seen in the broadening and expansion of the  production and access to information through the smart phones,  websites, and other gadgets. This has also created unprecedented rise in  disinformation in the country, especially during the electioneering  process marred by electoral violence on the country’s electoral culture in  the identified period. The study, therefore, examines the role of  disinformation in electoral violence in Nigeria between 1964 and 2011. It  examines patterns of disinformation in pre-digital and digital age and  their impact on electoral violence in the country. 

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