INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL HATE SPEECH ON VOTERS’ CHOICE

Abstract: This research examined the Influence of Political Hate Speech on Voters’ Choice. The study was anchored on Source Credibility Theory and Technological Determinism Theory. The research used survey research method while the data collection instrument adopted in this study was questionnaire. Accidental sampling technique was used to selected respondents. The data collected were analyzed in frequency and percentage with the aid of tables using SPSS version 23. Findings show that many of the respondents came across hate speeches online particularly on Facebook. Equally, many of the hate speeches that were trending on Facebook at the time of 2015 and 2019 electioneering campaigns were dominated by ethnicity and religion. It was recommended that political terrain of Nigeria demands lots of adjustment and formulation of law to guide against the abusive of social media in the future election.


HATE SPEECH ON VOTERS

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

1.1     Background to the Study:

Advancement in Information and Communication Technology otherwise known as media convergence in the 21st century has revolutionalised all facets of human activities including communication, interaction and politics.

Awake Magazine (2002) cited in Kur (2004) posits that the dynamic nature of the 2lst century and more centuries to come rests on technological revolution. No wonder, Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian English Professor in 1960 propounded the concept of “Global Village” regarding the entire globe as having the potentials of becoming a “global community” where information and news about anything and anywhere in the world would be readily available for anyone’s consumption in any part of the world (Christopher, 2012).

According to Vangie (2015:1) as of August 07, 2015 there was an estimated three billion, one hundred seventy nine million thirty five thousand two hundred (3,179,035,200) Internet users worldwide. The number of Internet users represents nearly 40 percent of the world’s population. According to world meters.info, world population is below 7.4 billion with the projection that more than 5 billion people will be online by 2020 (Cicso, 2015) is a name of organization

The country with the largest number of Internet users is China, followed by the United States and India in September 2014. In Africa continent, Nigeria is top among the users of the internet with 86,219,965 March 30, 2016. According  to Suomen Toivo–Think  Tank  (2012) in Adedeji (2015) “social  media  are  new information network and information technology using a form of interactive communication skills, where users produce the content of information and interpersonal relationships are established and maintained  in  the  process. A typical social media services could be content  sharing, web communities, or an Internet forum.

In the same vein, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) in Adedeji (2015) defined social media as a group of Internet-based application that is built upon the ideology and technology of web 2.0 and allow the generation and exchange of its content.

On the social media,  the users are  not passive  like in  the  case  of  Television, Radio,  and Newspaper, rather  they  are  active in  the  formation  and  exchange  of  information. Sweetser and Laricsy (2008) in Adedeji (2015).

Information that emanated from a member of the forum might become topical and  even  spread beyond  where  it  was  first  discussed.  Typical  examples of  social  media  Include Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google+”. 

Today, social media is deeply involved in shaping public opinion, perceptions and an awareness of events as they unfold. Information that used to be private domain is now in the public domain as citizens are now part of information gathering and dissemination (Robert and Godwin, 2012). 

More recently, citizen journalism (also known as public journalism) has become the media equivalent of grassroots democracy. This is because, as each participatory democracy encourages its citizens to participate and contribute to the administration of the state, so citizen journalism allows for public engagement in the media practice.    

A tremendous change in the Nigerian political process has been the rise of social media. How social media has influenced politics in Nigeria is prominently shown in the way that political parties were unable to change election results as they were coming out of the various polling stations. The use of platforms such as Facebook, Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApps, Twitter, Blog, MySpace, YouTube and Instagram have emerged as an important means of electioneering and the policing of election results (Audu, 2015).

However, for the first time in the political history of Nigeria, social media was highly used in the 2015 presidential election as a platform for political discussion, political interaction, political debate and other political education including voters registration and collection of Parmanent Voter’s Card, etc.

That does not mean social media were perfect for political matters because it comes with some limitations and abuse due to the uncensored nature of the social media platforms so it promotes hate speech, innuendo, sectional and ethnicity, capable of instigating religious crisis among other things that can set the nation on fire.

Some of the issues promoted on social media apart from name-calling and abuse were stated below as culled from (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015), though such issues were also reported in the traditional media (radio, television, newspaper):

It should be noted that Katsina State Gov. Shema reportedly urged his supporters to attack opponents and referred to his political opponents as cockroaches urging his supporters to kill them as they kill cockroaches.

Similarly, the Ekiti State Governor, Peter Ayodele Fayose in January repeatedly took out front-page newspaper advertorials warning voters not to vote for the APC presidential candidate Muhamadu Buhari. These adverts, now widely known as “death wish advertorials” insinuated that the presidential candidate was likely to die in office if elected, like the late President, Yaradua. (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015).

Also, speaking during the PDP women presidential campaign rally in Kogi State, the Nation’s First Lady, reportedly described Gen. Buhari as unfit to be the country’s president, calling him old and brain dead.

In the same vein, Nigerian First Lady, Patience Jonathan is also recorded as having urged the members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stone anyone that promises them to change.  “Change” is the slogan of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In the same campaign speech given at a rally held on Monday, March 2, in Calabar, the capital of Cross River state, Mrs Jonathan is quoted as saying “Our people no dey born shildren wey dem no dey fit count. Our men no dey born shildren throway for street. We no dey like the people for that side.” Thus making a derogatory statement obviously referring to the Northern parts of the country where the awful practice of child abandonment known as ‘Almajiri’ still occurs (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015).

After emerging unscathed after the plethora of criticism that followed the documentary on General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the APC earlier in the year, a popular television Network, AIT, on March 1st aired a documentary titled ‘Lion of Bourdillon’. The hour-long documentary, aired at 11 p.m. showcased various properties and companies across Lagos purportedly owned by Mr. Tinubu, a top leader of the APC describing him as “Nigeria’s biggest landlord”. It also alleged that the APC chieftain was “ charged for narcotics” in 1993 (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015).

All these statements credited to some prominent Nigerians were also traded on social media platforms which generated lots of actions, comments and reactions. Therefore, the research examines the Influence of Political Hate Speech on Voters’ Choice to know the extent to which the hate speech influenced voting choice during 2015 and 2019 the presidential election in Nigeria.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Critics have identified distortion of information, innuendos, hate-speeches, imbalanced reports and the growing tendency for the public not to believe the social media platforms because it lacks objectivity, accuracy, fairness etc)  due to the absent of gate-keepers as major problems inherent in most of the social media as used in the 2015 presidential election.

Preliminary observation suggests that people believe in the influence of the political campaign hate speech on the 2015 presidential election. Hate speech often precedes outbreaks of violence. No doubt, politicians who engage in hate speech during election campaigns depart from issue-based electioneering (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015). It is against this background that the research examines the Influence of Political Hate Speech on Voters’ Choice in 2015 and 2019 Presidential Candidate with a view to focus on Facebook users in Lagos Metropolis.

1.3       Research Objectives

  1. To determine the extent to which users perceived political campaign hate speech on Facebook in the build up the 2015 presidential election.
  2. To determine the extent to which political campaign hate speech on Facebook affected the decision of the electorate to vote for the party of their choice.

1.4       Research Questions

  1. To what extent did users perceive political campaign hate-speech on Facebook in the build up to the 2015 presidential election?
  2. To what extent did the political campaign hate-speech on Facebook affect the decision of the electorate to vote for the party of their choice?

1.5       Significance of the study

This work will be useful to political office aspirants on how to manage communication about themselves especially in the emerging social media space where content consumers are also producers. This work is also useful to political parties and candidates in future elections on how to use the platform to mobilise, educate, enlighten and gain public support towards winning political seats. 

This work contributes to the existing body of knowledge available in journalism, media studies, mass communication, public relations, political advertising/marketing and political science as not much literature is available about political hate speeches on social media.

Future researchers and students will find the material relevant as it forms bulk literature that exist in the field of mass communication, political communication, etc hat they can lay hands on when carrying out research related or similar to this.

Public relations, campaign managers and political media relations team or unit will learn counsel and advise their political party and candidate on the likely implication of their actions, statements, etc what it could cause the society.

1.7       Operational Definition of Terms

Influence: It refers to how hate speeches campaign via Facebook determines electorate voting in 2015 presidential election.

Hate Speech: These are statements that are unethical, sectional and of propaganda innunendo and abuse nature used against one another during the presidential election in 2015. i.e any communication that denigrates a particular person or a group on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.

Voters Choice: This entails the decision of electorate to vote for a particular candidate or party during the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.  



INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL HATE SPEECH ON VOTERS’ CHOICE


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