The inability and unwillingness of social media giants to crack down on bots and trolls have had an adverse effect on their users, politicians and even global democracy.
This was the submission of Joel Poopola, British tech entrepreneur of Nigerian descent and founder of new democracy app, Rate Your Leader.
In a statement, Popoola said with more than 40 million Nigerians using Facebook especially, the fake news phenomenon, which has hit democracies across the world, could affect the 2019 presidential election.
He cited the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari who was alleged to have died during the ill health debacle that saw him stay in London for about three months.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, had alleged that the President died and was cloned with a replacement from Sudan named Jubril.
Popoola said the news, fake in its entirety, travelled far and wide and was believed by a broad spectrum of Nigerians, and yet, was not checkmated by social media proprietors.
Popoola also cited research from Amnesty International recently, which revealed that female politicians are abused on Twitter every 30 second – with more than 1.1 million abusive tweets sent to female lawmakers and journalists every year.
A parliamentary study by the Committee on Standards in Public Life presented to British Parliament by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 also revealed that 33 per cent of candidates in the 2017 general election experienced “inappropriate behaviour” during electioneering; 56 per cent of candidates were concerned about abuse and intimidation; 31 per cent actively fearful; and every single female MP on active Twitter has experienced online intimidation.
Popoola, whose democracy app, Rate Your Leader, was recently launched to connect politicians with verified local electors using abuse-proof technology, aims to “Take back democracy with technology.”
He said “Around the world, from Trump supporters in America to Jeune Gillets in France to Brexit supporters in the UK, people are feeling more and more out of touch with politics, and it’s only a matter of time before a similar apathy descends on Nigeria. One in three Nigerians uses Facebook, and technology offers the opportunity to connect politicians and people like never before. That dichotomy is driven by social media giants being unwilling, unable or both to effectively crack down on trolls and bots.
“Democracy is now digital, which means social media companies have a responsibility to provide a safe space for both politicians and our democracy and they are evidently failing on both fronts. As a result, a troubling amount of our political debate in other parts of the world is dominated by Russian trolls and computerised bots while actual politicians are forced off social media by 21st Century pitchfork-wielding mobs. That cannot be right.
“Since Twitter, Facebook and others are not stepping up to the plate on this, we clearly need new democratic tech which allows genuine residents to interact with their elected officials in an abuse-proof way. Our Rate Your Leader technology can do it, so why can’t the tech giants?”
Rate Your Leader is a global online platform which helps politicians engage only with voters in their constituencies in an abuse-proof way.
The technology allows elected leaders to truly understand what matters most to the people who elect them while allowing local people to identify and contact their representatives at the touch of a button, direct from their phones or tablets.
The app, which also allows people to check if they are registered to vote and identify their elected representatives at the touch of a button, is free to download from the App store and other app marketplaces.