The Information Ministry relayed a caution to Ghanaians with respect to interacting with fake and unverified social media accounts created in the name of governmental institutions and agencies.
This was contained in a statement released on October 27, 2019.
Parts of the statement read “...unverified accounts are mostly created in the names of Public Institutions, Ministers, Members of Parliament and other public figures. The accounts are used as platforms to promise jobs, scholarships, contracts and senior high school national service placements…In exchange, victims are lured into making advance cash payments to secure the offers…”
On the back of this development and several other cases of misrepresentations on social media, GhanaWeb investigated some ministries and their respective social media handles, as well as, how active they are, a characteristic that would help serve as a big competition to fake accounts.
Well-recognized government ministries were streamlined - the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Energy Ministry, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Communications Ministry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Tourism, Ministry of Trade and Industries and others.
A verified account on the two main social media giants Twitter and Facebook - which has the subscription of more than half of Ghanaian internet user population – means the particular account is authentic and of public interest.
But to the dismay of Ghanaians, only a few of the social media accounts of government ministries are verified.
On both Twitter and Facebook, only two of the aforementioned ministries – the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Finance - have at least one verified account, leaving a lot of questions unanswered as to how they expect people to not succumb to false and pretentious pages.
Not only does this development contribute to the growing spate of misrepresentation and fraud in the name of public institutions, it also leaves room for the practice.
Also, some of the ministries were unavailable on at least one of the social media platforms.
Social Media Presence and Activities
As part of increasing awareness on issues, social media plays a critical role in the practice of democracy. And per activities on social media, it is quite easy to identify pretentious accounts and authentic accounts.
In the case of unverified Ghanaian ministries’ accounts, it is, however, easy for gullible internet users to fall in the traps of impersonators.
Perhaps, the only significant features on such pages are exclusive pictures and videos of activities the ministries undertake but they can easily be copied and transferred to pretentious pages.
Below is a quick look at the timelines of some ministries at the time of the filing of this report:
The Ministry of Information has a verified account on Facebook but not on Twitter with about 63k and 11.5k followers, respectively. It is updated more than once a day and live streams videos from the ministry. The last they updated on both platforms as at Thursday morning was 5 hours ago about a public forum aimed at sensitizing tertiary students on the RTI law.
On the pages of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the last they updated as at Thursday morning was about 6 hours ago with a page following of over 23,000 yet remained unverified.
The Ministry of Finance like the Information Ministry is verified on Facebook but not on Twitter. It had about 28,000 Facebook followers.
The Ministry of Education, despite its several changes in the educational system in Ghana, was not available on Twitter per our searches and was unverified on Facebook but had a following of about 27,000. The page was last updated two hours ago on the 3rd Round table meeting of ministers responsible for public libraries in Africa.
The Energy Ministry is not verified on both platforms and the last update on Twitter was in June 2019 and 24th October 2019 on Facebook. Its update was in relation to the deputy sector minister’s press briefing on the PDS saga.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has an unverified Facebook account, the last it updated was on October 29, 2019, on a stakeholder’s forum for the Inclusion of disability in the Extractive Industry. It has a following of about 12,000 and 19,000 but remained unverified.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was unavailable on Twitter but verified on Facebook. Interestingly, one of the last updates done on the ministry’s Facebook page was a disclaimer warning the public against social media impersonators. The latest update was a motivational quote.
The Communications Ministry was last updated on October 25 on Facebook and October 16, 2019, on Twitter. It is however unverified on both platforms.
With regards to the responsiveness of these social media pages of governmental institutions, GhanaWeb sent messages to some of these ministries. While some had an automated response system which indicated that they would reply in the shortest possible time, others remained unresponsive.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration is one of the few with the automated response system. Others, on the other hand, had contact numbers which also had automated response systems.
Social media, despite its deficits, forms part of the technological evolutions. Government has been quite vocal in its attempts to put the nation on the radar of the technologically advanced.
However, constant social media updates and interaction may be a way of clamping down on the menace of fake pages.
Meanwhile, the government has assured the general public that security agencies and social media service providers are making the necessary efforts to clamp down on these nefarious activities. It sure starts from the top.