Mike Odiegwu, Yenagoa
THE Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has warned the two main parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the danger posed by hate speech to a peaceful conduct of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
Speaking in Yenagoa on Monday, the Coordinator, Countering Hate Speech Project, CITAD, Hamza Ibrahim, said the centre had tracked 420 hate speeches from platforms ahead of the poll.
He said: “Hate speech is a major problem that tends to undermine peaceful coexistence among Nigeria’s diverse communities and threatens the political stability of the country. Hate speech is particularly widely spread in the social media.
“With increase reach of social media and its high speed of delivery, as well as its relative affordability, the fear that hate speech can easily catalyse large scale violence is real. There have already been instances in which hate speech had already occurred before and during the 2019 general election.
“As we approach governorship election here in Bayelsa State, it is instrumental that awareness is intensified to ensure that people desist from hate speech and violence against women, particularly in the social media, in order to have a peaceful election and continued peace in the country.”
Ibrahim said the centre, with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), initiated the project to track and counter hate speeches and online violence against women with a view to raising awareness and addressing the consequences of the phenomenon.
He said: “We strongly appeal to actors in both APC and PDP in Bayelsa State to sanitise their political statements/comments in verbal, written or any illustrative form. We call on the managers of especially Facebook group and pages of the APC and PDP in the state to study and ensure that the content they publish are not hateful or inciting remarks during campaigns.
“We urge specifically, APC and PDP and their gubernatorial candidates, Chief David Lyon and Seriake Dickson to take audit of the pages and groups that appear in their names on Facebook as well as deactivate any platform they find making hate speech in their names.”
Observing that hate speech was sadly becoming rampant, Ibrahim said most of the tracked hate speech came from social media platforms, namely Facebook, Twitter, BlogSpot and websites of conventional and online newspapers.
“On webpages of conventional and online newspaper as well as BlogSpot, the speech items emerged from the comments section. The speech items tracked also included those done offline, particularly under Election category in Bayelsa State,” he said.
Ibrahim added: “From the data that our observatory did capture, it is obvious that hate speech, especially online by followers of both parties, may be undermining the peaceful conduct of the election.