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Report: Political parties paying influencers to spread false news about opponents

Jesupemi Are

Political parties in Nigeria are secretly paying social media influencers to spread false news about their opponents, a report by BBC states.

According to the report, two whistle-blowers given the pseudonyms Yemi and Godiya, working for two political parties, told BBC that parties give out cash, government contracts, and political appointments for their work.

Godiya, who is a politician, said her party has paid an influencer “up to N20 million naira ($45,000) for delivering a result”.

“We’ve also given people gifts. Other people prefer to hear: ‘What do you want to do in government, be a board member, be a special assistant?’,” Godiya said.

The politician added that political parties tell influencers to elicit as much emotion as they can with their paid posts.

“We use images that may not even be relevant to the story we are trying to spin. We can take pictures from East Africa in the 1990s in war zones and attach them to a tweet about how my ethnic group is being killed. When people get emotional, they retweet, they like, and it gets traction,” she said.

Yemi, who works as a strategist, said parties develop fake stories to improve their candidates’ chances.

“You can deliberately misinform in a suitable way for you,” Yemi said.

The whistle-blowers said the hired influencers are sometimes given tweets to publish, and other times, an idea that they should frame in their own words.

They said influencers are paid based on the number of followers they have and mostly in cash to avoid a paper trail.

The whistle-blowers also said in situation rooms where political parties strategise and monitor their campaigns’ success, the performance of false narratives assigned to influencers are also monitored.

 

The report said one influencer with almost 150,000 Facebook followers, who asked not to be named, said he is paid by political parties to post completely false stories about political opponents.

The influencer said he, however, does not do it openly, but rather, hires micro-influencers to plant false stories.

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