Lifestyle

Have we been downplaying the damage of Fake News?

No doubt, various parts of the world have at one point or the other faced many challenges. Some of such challenges connected with misinformation and disinformation cut across all the continents of the world.

Experts and even some state-actors refer to misinformation or disinformation as “fake news”, although some feel that this characterization waters down the relevance; this is because of the politicising of the term by the American President, Donald Trump. And while the global menace initially ravaged the first world countries, second and third world countries are now often confronted with the challenges posed by misinformation or disinformation.

On the severity of misinformation, what readily comes to mind is the second world war and the Rwandan genocide. Interestingly, misinformation/disinformation triggered both events. 

Prevalence in the motherland

Unfortunately, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country is becoming a bee-hive of misinformation and disinformation, with social media as the main culprit.  

There have been instances of inflammatory false claims and assertions being dished out through social media channels and other sources of information. 

It is noteworthy that promoters of fake news have ulterior motives which include political, ethnic, and religious ones, while some do it for fun or popularity.

One of the recent fake news that went viral recently was the rumoured death of the immediate past governor of Oyo State, the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi, one week before his eventual death.

The news got many Nigerians confused and put professional media outfits on their toes to seek and find the truth.

The world and Nigeria in particular should find ways to reduce devastating effects of fake news by intensifying  fact-checking programmes across the media landscape.

Undeniable Need

Regarding the 1994 Rwandan genocide and its one million death toll,  there were charges that news about the fatalities was orchestrated through the media. Perhaps if citizens had attempted to fact check the information made available to them, the carnage could have been reduced if not avoided.

Similarly, misinformation associated with the prevailing Coronavirus pandemic has led some people to abuse substances, resulting in poisoning.

Some cases have even resulted in death.  For example, the recent death of Nigeria’s first-ever female combat helicopter pilot Tolulope Arotile has provoked a public outcry on suspicion that the young lady was murdered.

A reaction by Bayo Oluwasanmi on Sahara Reporters dated July 17, 2020, claims that assassins sponsored by terrorists murdered Arotile. It also suggests that the incident is a ploy to wipe out  from the Nigeria Air Force representatives of a particular nationality.

Such claims, if not fact-checked, could trigger social and political problems in a multinational federation.

That a preliminary investigation report eventually released by NAF indicates that a friend killed the deceased in a road traffic accident has illustrated the importance of fact-checking and digging deep into sources to rule out unverified claims, lest they result in a national crisis.

It is, therefore,  imperative to bear in mind that many write-ups are not always objective.

Some tips 

Here are some means to fact check your information.

  • You should always verify all sources of information. Doing so will help identify the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.” When such queries receive answers, then the authenticity of the piece of information could be ascertained;
  • Reversing image search is an application that helps to find out when and where a picture has been previously used. This application is handy for various images being circulated on social media;
  • Tineye can be used to identify manipulated images;
  • Identifying fake websites may require you to check the URL of the site and also probe the credibility of the content.         

Conclusion

Note that all information is not automatically authentic; therefore, ensure you digest only the credible ones to enable you to be a source of valid information and stall the tide of fake news.

Adedayo Adelowo

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