Curbing fake news and information; the task of every Nigerian By Muib Shefiu

The alarming rate of spurious news and information of this era cannot be overlooked.  It ranges from the individual on social media to well-organized news media.

The race of breaking news has become a gird for many people and news media to the extent that they end up breaking the prestige and probity of their followers, listeners or viewers in the process.

Honestly, one wouldn’t believe that there are millions of self-acclaimed internet journalists until one peep through the wall of Facebook – the walls that need not a ladder nor stool to climb- or you scroll through the ground of twitter where babbling of phoney and fallacious facts usually cloud the pukka ones.

This uncontrollable act has caused information lethargy in the minds of the readers or listeners to the extent that they prefer being uninformed to having gulp misinformation.

At this juncture, fake news should not only be seen from the perspective of fallacies and fabricated stories but also be seen from the perspective of highly exaggerated media pictures. Sometimes the media usually use highly horrendous images speaking more than what is being reported.

Consequently, this can create fear and panic in the mind of the audience and can lead to unforeseen chaos. The most common place to find this kind of pictures is social media. It is surprising that sometimes we see a picture of the Second World War (1945) illustrating the mild event that happened in 2020 on Facebook and Twitter.

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Introspectively, the mind-sets of the brain box behind the fake news and information are not to inform the people but to grow their followers, viewers or listeners with conspiracy theory cooked and spiced in their inner cocoon. They exploit their audience vulnerability and gullibility to boost their fame and statures both economically and socially.

Apparently, the outbreak of coronavirus can also be seen as an outburst of spurious news and information that the world has not witnessed before. Every nook and cranny of the internet is wallowing with information without sources. It is very hard to separate news from a false rumour.

However, in a bid to curb this malady, different countries have formulated laws.

In India, anybody caught with the act -especially to escalate coronavirus- will be put behind the bar for a year. In South Africa, anybody convicted of fake news against coronavirus will spend six months in Government captivity. The Republic of China punishes the defaulter with nothing less than three years and not more than seven years in prison. The offender will either pay one hundred and twenty thousand dollars or be imprisoned for up to six years in Malaysia. At times, the defaulter can bag both depending on the gravity of the crime.

Major Fake News in the Country

The Presidential Twitter Wedding         

Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus, the social media influencers on Twitter had erroneously fixed a date for the wedding of the President of the country. The preparation was very tough on twitter that it eventually spread to other areas like Facebook and the headlines of some desperate and wannabe bloggers and news media looking for names and web visitors. The wedding started and ended on social media, however.

Thirty Thousand COVID-19 relief funds for BVN holders

At first, when the lockdown was introduced in the country. There was news that the government wanted to credit the account of BVN holders in the country. The news spread like wildfire until it was debunked by the government. It was surprising to see the publishing houses remove the link from their page and replace it with an apologetic message to countrymen and women.

Magical Tortoise

I was perusing the autobiography of the Governor Kaduna State, Nasiru El-Rufai fortnight ago when something drew my attention. He said that he met a tortoise on his seat years ago and he removed it and sit without any phobia. To his surprise, a journalist of a widely recognized Newspaper (Name withheld) reported the news that he saw tortoise on his seat and he collapsed. He further stated that the head of his security wanted the journalist to pay the price of his libel but he insisted that it was not necessary.

Reopening of Educational Sector

There have been a series of fake news, letters and memos circumnavigating on social media. The Minister of education had issued disclaimers countless times as a countermeasure for the baseless news. Yet, people are launching them like a missile into the e-world. The recent one chose June 20, 2020, as the resumption date.

The Death of the Ex-Governor of Oyo State

Recently, many hungry bloggers and agents of spurious news on the media had announced the death of the Formal Governor of Oyo state due to coronavirus. These Social media influencers had beguiled their followers and made reality out of their foolishness. Initially, many people had believed the anecdote but the information was later debunked as a white lie by his relatives.

The Effects of Fake News and Information

  1. It causes panic and anxiety: Human beings are vulnerable in the hands of toxic and unreal information. It raises alarm when there is no need to set one. It displeases the calmness of the society and can lead to social unrest. For instance, when the president of the country was reported to have contracted coronavirus different Nigerians on the ground of twitter and the wall of Facebook demanded that the president prove his existence.
  2. Public disinterest in the news media: Having consumed too much of fallacies, people will get bored and eventually lose the will to consume valid news from the recognised media in the country. This will do more harm than good as much vital information will skip millions of people. If one closed the eyes for the passage of evil ones, the good ones will be passed unnoticed.

The Simple Solutions to the Problem

People like you and I created the problem, definitely, you and I can solve the problem. We can do that by following the simple logic of “If you didn’t see it from a reliable source, heard from a genuine origin, do not create it with your small brain nor copy it from a baseless source and share it with your smartphone”

Also, the government needs to promulgate laws and edicts that will restrict the perpetrators. Anybody caught with the act should be punished so as to serve as retributive and deterrent to others.

Lastly, you and I are ambassadors of our names and country; do not defame your name in the name of popularity. Nowadays, social media has become curriculum vitae for many opportunities, how do you want to be viewed depends on what you upload and share. Beware!

Muib Shefiu is an English language tutor, an educationist, a writer and a post-graduate student of the Federal University of Kashere, Gombe, Gombe State.

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