The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in partnership with Tactical Tech, has harped on the need for for an overview of the use of data in Nigerian elections, as the first step to increasing awareness and activism.
The two organization made the disclosure in a statement signed by Idayat Hassan, the Director of CDD, and Gary Wright of Tactical Tech, while announcing the release of a new report.
The report titled: “Personal Data and the Influence Industry in Nigerian Elections, Data-Driven by Formal and Informal Actors” focuses on the use of data in campaign activities during elections in Nigeria.
It highlights the use of data and digital technologies by political actors to fundraise, test for the resonance of campaign messages, target messages to specific geographic locations, and send out bulk SMS, audio, and WhatsApp messages, before, during, and after the voting process.
According to the report, In Nigeria’s 2015 election, Cambridge Analytica (CA) spread targeted disinformation to suppress opposition votes, and allegedly released sensitive medical and financial information about then opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
“In 2018, the Nigerian government formed a committee to investigate, amongst others, CA’s 2015 activities, and promised criminal prosecutions if necessary. However, two years on, there has been no update from the government committee.”
The report stated that the lack of attention given to the CA scandal is worrying, coupled with the morally questionable techniques used by the political actors in Nigeria.
“Using the framing introduced in Tactical Tech’s publication, “Personal Data, Political Persuasion”, this report combines interviews with various actors in the political influence industry and secondary evidence from journalistic sources to map the data-driven campaign techniques used in Nigeria.”
The mapping focuses on the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections but incorporates examples from earlier and lower-level elections conducted in the past.
“It also addresses a puzzle that the first section unearths: why does it seem that the formal political consulting industry in Nigeria is so small? The report also looks at the different actors in the influence industry, focusing on the kinds of political actors that hire them, the kinds of elections they tend to be involved in, and the techniques that they use in serving their clients.”