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Fake news in Africa


The spread of fake news in Africa has been blamed for igniting ethnic violence, sowing confusion among voters and even causing currency fluctuations.

When Atiku Abubakar was confirmed as a presidential candidate for the Nigerian elections in 2019, a fake Twitter account in the name of the opposition leader posted a message thanking the “Association of Nigerian Gay Men (ANGAM)” for its support.

After originally being shared on Twitter on 14 October, the story was picked up by two Nigerian blogs. Then 12 days later, two prominent Nigerian newspapers, The Nation and the Vanguard, both published stories with a very similar theme.

They reported that an LGBT organisation called “Diverse” was also backing Mr Abubakar for president, considering him a truly “liberal candidate”.

A fake news story about a presidential candidate advocating for gay rights could be used to undermine them. Highly influential Muslim and Christian leaders in Nigeria, who were united in their support for the anti-gay legislation, could tell their followers not to vote for such a candidate.

The Twitter account which was the source of the original story is not an official account for the politician Atiku Abubakar. This is his real account, verified with a blue tick by Twitter.

There is also no evidence that the LGBT rights organisations quoted in the initial tweet, or the subsequent blogposts and newspaper articles, even exist. There are no official records of the organisations themselves, which would be illegal under Nigerian law anyway.

And neither they nor their purported spokesperson (Spinky Victor Lee) existed online before the emergence of the first tweet in October, as detailed in this fact-check by the Agence France Press (AFP) news agency.

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