Fresh from the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, Salim Zakariyya Sani has already cooked up another way to serve the nation; this time, to protect Nigeria’s fragile unity being threatened by fake news.
“For us to have stability and peace in this country, we need to stop fake news; if not, fake news will be the harbinger of destruction for this country,” he told Daily Trust Saturday with the exuberance of a youth who is passionate about his country.
Sani, a 24-year-old graduate of Quantity Survey from the Kano State Polytechnic, who until October 28 was serving the country in Rivers State, observed like every other Nigerian how fake news triggered untold destruction of properties and loss of lives in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest which rocked the very foundation of the country.
He believes like most experts that if Nigeria does not find a way to end the spread of fake news, fake news would, sooner than later, bring the end of Nigeria as one indivisible country.
A day before Sani passed out from the NYSC scheme, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, for the umpteenth time warned that Nigeria may “be sitting on a keg of gun powder” if the issue of fake news is not addressed through legislation.
While seeking the partnership of the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values to track news streams for fake news, the minister, according to reports, warned that the next war that will be fought in the country and across the world, may be provoked by misinformation on social media.
“The biggest challenge facing the country was the issue of fake news and misinformation, adding that the government identified this since 2017 and decided to launch a national campaign against fake news,” Mohammed said.
Armed with this information and his personal conviction built on months of research, Sani developed a platform which he hopes will help not only to tackle fake news but also help media practitioners in verifying information before releasing it into the public space.
“The platform has two sections. In the first section which is ‘Report Fake News’, a visitor will fill out information based on the fake news source, be it Facebook, Twitter, news blog, newspaper etc and when this report is sent, the relevant authorities will receive full details of the fake news, that means they will have the complete database of the fake news and take appropriate actions.
“The visitor who wants to report any fake news does not need to input his/her personal information for security reasons,” Sani said.
Also concerned about the role of media practitioners in wittingly or unwittingly spreading fake news through their various platforms, Sani said the second section of his Anti Fake News platform is targeted at journalists, to verify their information by submitting their requests through their corporate email address.
“After filling his name and corporate email address, he will put the details of the news he wants the relevant authority to verify. Based on my research, the issue that many journalists have with government officials and some private sectors is getting a quick response.
“On the other hand, I observed that this slow response persists because of lack of a platform where the respondent (government or private sector) can be sure that the enquiry is truly from a journalist because usually, some journalists will just try to contact them through text messages, phone call or an email from a non-corporate email address,” he added.
Now, with his platform, he believes that journalists and the respondents (government and private sector) would be better served.
All requests sent through the two sections on the platform, according to Sani, would be delivered in real-time.
“The issue of fake news is disturbing every country,” Sani said, but quickly added that his challenge with the platform is that “people might think that this is a platform that will regulate their use of social media, but I want to make it clear that I am not a politician and I did not create this to serve the personal interest of any politician.”
He said he hopes authorities, civil society organisations and individuals will take a look at his platform to serve as a guide for them to create even more advanced platforms to fight the fake news scourge.
On how he ended up as a website developer despite studying Quantity Survey at the higher institution, Sani said he has always been a lover of computer growing up and that love spurred him to register for courses in ICT including an online web designing class with Solo Learn Academy, United States of America.
“I started learning about computer in 2007. Now, the world has changed and IT is covering every profession; that is why while studying Quantity Survey, I used to attend some lectures in the Computer Science department and with my interest in web designing, I attended some courses both online and offline here in Kano.
“My major motivation is that the knowledge of IT is useful in whatever profession one finds himself.”
He said while the project has been self-funded, he hopes that relevant authorities and civil society organisations will contact him to help take his dream for the platform to the next level.