Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the Minister of Information, has described the quickening spate of fake news in the country as a national security threat and urged the security agencies to deal ruthlessly with those who generate and circulate disinformation.
The minister was speaking to Nana Yaa Mensah on this morning’s Asaase Breakfast Show, following reports suggesting that a Ghanaian official has been arrested in the United Kingdom for attempting to launder £26 million in cash by smuggling it into the UK.
“For us, it is not a minor incident in silly season. It is a major national security threat that is beginning to emerge … We were hinted, quite recently, to expect a series of cyber activities aimed at influencing Ghana’s election,” Oppong Nkrumah said.
Check, and check again
“The route will be fabrications, fake tapes, even including deep fake videos that seem to influence the elections. You will recall that elections and democracies around the world in recent years have had the challenge of these sort of attacks. We have witnessed a series of these attacks, in the US, UK et cetera.”
Oppong Nkrumah has therefore charged the media to be professional in the discharge of their duties especially during, before and after the December presidential election.
“It is not something that you can just assume it is just an innocuous thing that happened on social media as such. And that is why we are worried – because if the hints we’ve been given are true then we should expect a lot of this in the next six to eight weeks, including deep fake videos: things that have not transpired,” the Information Minister said.
“We are clear in our minds that: 1) we have to call it out; 2) we have to get the agencies of state that are responsible for nipping such things in the bud to take an interest and to deal with it substantively. It’s not enough to say, ‘It’s not true, it’s not true,’ because if that is the only solution then every morning you and I will be having this interview. But the agencies responsible must take some action.
“3) We should ask the media to help the republic by running those quick checks whenever you see or hear any of these things. The media can also link up with data analysis companies that do meta-data analysis on these things … Our democracy can be at risk if we don’t have substantive action.”
Law on fake news
Section 76 of the Electronic Communications Act 2008 (Act 775) clause (1) A says:
“A person who by means of electronic communications service, knowingly sends a communication which is false or misleading and likely to prejudice the efficiency of a life-saving service or to endanger the safety of any person … commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than [GHC36,000] or to a term of imprisonment of not more than five years or both.
(2) A person is taken to know that a communication is false or misleading if that person did not take reasonable steps to find out whether the communication was false, misleading, reckless or fraudulent.”