News Analysis

Curbing Fake News

No doubt, various parts of the world have at one point or the other faced challenges connected with misinformation and disinformation.

Experts and even some state-actors refer to mis or disinformation as “fake news, this means that not all news on social media is accurate and objective.

On the severity of misinformation, what readily comes to mind is the second world war and the Rwandan genocide.

Interestingly, misinformation and disinformation triggered both events. 

Perhaps if citizens had attempted to fact check information made available to them, crisis that erupted afterwards would have been reduced if not avoided.

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

In November 2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, in a report showed that Nigerians usually fall prey to fake news because they are concerned about “not falling behind on the news” and being informed, among other reasons.

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 social, political, ethnic, and religious ones, while some do it for fun or popularity.

Fake news has resulted in stampeding the uninformed public into unpatriotic and destructive actions, especially as it happened in the protest against the alleged police brutality known as #ENDSARS.

Although the #ENDSARS protest was planned to be peaceful, along the line, fake news came, feeding the public with false information about people’s perceived dispositions, especially prominent Nigerians.

This resulted in attacks on such individuals, their property and family members.

The ripple effects of the #ENDSARS protest on the economy, security of lives and property, infrastructure and the nation’s image and democracy cannot be quantified.

What is most troubling is that the protests have been fuelled largely by fake news believed by the unsuspecting members of the public.

It is worthy of note that all information is not automatically authentic; therefore, people should ensure to read, digest, verify and ask questions to prevent the consequences of consumption of fake news by the people.

The senate may need to revisit the suspended social media bill and prescribe punishment for conveyer of fake news to serve as deterrent to others.

It is also important for government communication channels to be faster and more pro-active to mitigate the impact of fake news .

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.

 Adedayo Adelowo

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