The EU has been funding a project in Nigeria that used eavesdroppers in villages and journalists trained as online scouts and trolls to track and counter opinions critical of the government, to secure stability and peace.
The Nigerian government is continuing the project.
With funding from the EU Commission’s Orwellian-sounding Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, the organization Search for Common Ground has built an “early warning and response system in the digital space” of which the Director for Nigeria, Sher Ali Nawaz, said:
“This system was cutting edge; this included social listening, digital listening, and countering it with key messages of peace and stability.”
According to Giovanni Squadrito, head of the EU Commission’s regional team for foreign policy instruments in West and Central Africa, the mandate of the team was to counter the various misinformation and disinformation capabilities causing instability in the region:
“We were facing many social and socio-economic challenges. Misinformation was circulating. That is why we started this project with Search for Common Ground and other partners to provide reliable and trusted information using various media platforms.”
Note: We have learned by now that misinformation and disinformation in such contexts are equivalent to criticism of measures taken by the government, the UN, or other organizations cooperating with them.
The information comes from a March Global Sentinel report that was recently brought to my attention.
According to Search for Common Ground, the project was approached as follows:
“We engaged and trained key informants in communities to recognize relevant rumors and how to report them. We conducted a real-time social media platform to understand what people say about COVID-19 daily.”
“At the end of the project, we tracked 55,000 rumors across social media platforms. We also trained journalists on how to identify rumors. We have a rumors log where they log in to these rumors and provide alternate messages.”
The EU-funded search for the Common Ground project has ended, but the Nigerian government, unsurprisingly, does not want to let what has been built fall into disrepair.
After all, Nigeria already has a National Orientation Agency (NOA) whose job is to spread patriotism, communicate government policies and keep the government informed of public opinion.
NOA Director General Garba Abari announced at the Search project’s closing event in spring that the agency would partner with Search for Common Ground:
In particular, we look forward to working with the social media influencers who have been trained and engaged by Search on the project leading to mutual utilization of the knowledge, learning, and improved capacities between both organizations.
Specifically, we will work with Search for Common Ground in scanning the digital information ecosystem, including tracking of hate speech, misinformation, and rumor management leading to the production of snapshots and bulletins for the next 3 months in the first instance.
It sounds a bit like the project is morphing into a generalized surveillance and control project to suppress anti-government information and comments.
Search for Common Ground is a so-called “non-governmental organization” co-financed by governments.
It is one of the largest so-called peacebuilding and conflict transformation organizations.
In addition to NATO- and associated governments, the organization’s many funding partners include
Microsoft, BP, Mastercard, the National Endowment for Democracy (a semi-governmental arm of US foreign policy through which public funds are allocated to foreign organizations), Nuclear Threat Initiative (Washington), Open Society Initiative (George Soros), Rockefeller Brothers Fund,
Rockefeller Family, Salesforce.com Foundation (“We will accept much more surveillance“),
Silicon Valley Community Foundation and US Institute of Peace (the government agency that teaches techniques for pacifying “liberated” countries) and other, mainly American organizations.
One sees, or at least suspects, that the EU is financing an African mosaic piece of the global surveillance and control project of Washington and Silicon Valley.
This post was published first in the RioTimes.
Author: Norbert Häring