WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in 40 African countries, including Nigeria, due to its low cost, encrypted messages, and the ability to easily share messages with both individuals and groups. Its political inﬂuence has expanded rapidly in line with its growing penetration. The private messenger application continued to play an increasingly signiﬁcant role in the 2019 Nigerian general elections. 91% of those interviewed for this research were active WhatsApp users. Political leaders have been quick to understand the potential of WhatsApp and to adapt it to mobilise voters and try to safeguard their vote. As a result, it has become part of the fabric of election campaigns and is now a key mechanism through which political leaders seek to communicate with their campaign teams and supporters. WhatsApp is increasingly being relied upon to coordinate campaign events as well as to carry messages that both promote a candidate’s credentials and manifesto pledges, and criticise their rivals. To investigate the impact of WhatsApp on the Nigerian elections – and whether it has facilitated the spread of misinformation (the innocent sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate sharing of fabricated stories) – we collected data from a range of different sources at both national and sub-national levels, including: Executive Summary
Fieldwork in two states – Kano and Oyo – and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Conducting 46 qualitative interviews to understand both the national picture and the use of WhatsApp at the sub-national level.
Two state level surveys in Kano and Oyo to run state level surveys with a total of 1,005 respondents to see how WhatsApp is used in practice and gauge popular opinion.
Seven focus groups – three in Kano, four in Oyo – to probe survey ﬁndings and learn more about how WhatsApp functions to create political networks in different environments.
Conversations with Nigerian researchers and experts on the role of social media.
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