Being a lecture delivered by Adeyemi Olalemi, Publisher, BreezeReporters at a meeting of The Buhari Youth Organisations, BYO, Lagos Chapter
“There is an epidemic sweeping the world. If left unchecked, it could be worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded put together. It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security. It is a threat to democracy. It is the epidemic of fake news. Mixed with hate speech, it is a disaster waiting to happen’’ – Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Information Minister (July 11, 2018).
The term ‘’fake news” is not new but it has become prominent in recent times and it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, social peace, security and free debate.
The sharing of fake news – false information disseminated on the Internet mainly through the social media, has witnessed an upsurge in the last half a decade with the internet awash with damaging untrue information against individuals, public authorities, industries, and government institutions.
WHAT IS FAKE NEWS?
Completely false information, photos or videos circulated with the intent to confuse or misinform readers/viewers.
Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive the receiver or old photographs shared as new
Wikipedia gives a broader definition of fake news
Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.
This false information is mainly distributed by social media, but is periodically circulated through mainstream media.
Aside social media which have fueled the rise in fake news in recent times, powerful individuals, government, politicians and irresponsible citizens have played significant roles in increasing fake news
Usually, fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership, online sharing, and Internet click revenue without minding the veracity of the published stories.
IMPLICATIONS OF FAKE NEWS
- Fake news has the capacity to disrupt public peace.
- It undermines national security.
- It may breeds hatred among religions, ethnic groups and people.
- It might defame an individual, organization, government agency leading to violation of fundamental right of such entity.
- It undermines confidence in the media
HOW TO DETECT FAKE NEWS
Ahead of 2019 general elections and current security concerns in some parts of Nigeria, sadly, we should expect more fake news about these events.
Due to the danger posed by fake news, It’s pertinent to note that Social media companies like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter have revealed plans to fight the global problem of fake news.
However, here are ways you can spot fake news and stop its spread:
Check the source: Check the source of the information, website, social media account. Fake social media accounts often try to appear as if they are from legitimate news sites, so check that every account you share information from is genuine. Verified accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagramaccount most often can be trusted to give authentic information.
Crosscheck multiple sources: You can check multiple reputable new sources when trying to verify if what you’re seeing is real, although this isn’t foolproof, check if other trusted news outlets also reporting same information.
Verification tools: There are some tools online that can help determine the authenticity of a picture or a video. Google, Bing and someother search engines offer a reverse image search, which can tell you where images have been used before. To verify video you can use tools like InVid which allow you to select video from Facebook and YouTube to see if or where these videos have been used before.
Check metadata: If you have an original video or picture, you can check the metadata which will give you a wealth of information, including where and when the image or video was taken plus the device make and model. Unfortunately, when images and videos are uploaded to social media platforms their metadata is stripped out.
Be Responsible: As patriotic citizens, we must be responsible by thinking before we share. Be careful not to add to the problem of fake news. Before you post, ask yourself if you’re sure the information you’re about to post is real.
FAKE NEWS: THE WAY FORWARD
No doubt social media has been an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of citizens. The use obviously has helped put government officials in check as wells as creating awareness about some ills of the society but abuse of social media usage by citizens would inevitably spell doom for our society in no distant future.
In view of this, the need to censor social media and initiate laws that will check abuse of the tool and the spread of fake news cannot be over-emphasized.
I’m aware that Nigeria currently has a law – Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention ETC) Act, 2015 – which prescribe a N7million fine or 3 years jail term for anyone who spread false information. The government needs to gather the will to enforce this law.
Activists and people who are benefiting from social media might argue this but fact is glaringly staring in our faces that where there is impunity, abuse is inevitable and with the continuous abuse of this powerful tool (social media), democracy, social peace and stability, security and free debate will elude us faster than we can imagine.