An Abuja based media outfit, PRNigeria has unveiled a report on 101 cases of fake news on #EndSARS protest it identified, and which were shared and disseminated on various social media platforms.
The Editor-in-Chief of PRNigeria, Mr Yushau Shuaib, at a public presentation of the findings on the #endsars protest identified 101 fake news used by social media influencers to aid the escalation of the initial peaceful protest that turned violent.
Shuaib noted that fake news if not curtailed is capable of inciting violence that can destroy the country. He also advocated strong laws to check fake news because it constitutes a potential threat to democracy and national unity.
Shuaib, however, charged government at all levels to create sustainable jobs as a way of getting youths positively engaged, adding also that social media must be deployed to dispel rumours effectively.
He maintained that there exists a mistrust between government officials and the teeming citizens. According to him, until when the trust is built and maintained, the misgiving that propels spreading fake news would remain.
He specifically urged that government should not be insensitive with information, noting that hoarding of information easily gives room for fake news.
The media expert also appealed to security agents to always display professionalism in the discharge of their duties and must not for any reason compromise on their integrity.
The duo of Muhammad Dahiru Lawal and Abdulsalam Mahmud, the Acting Manager of PRNigeria Centre, Kano and Assistant Editor, respectively, anchored a power-point presentation of the report highlight some of the major fake news reports on EndSARS.
Dahiru gave instances on some fake posts shared about prominent Nigerians during the nationwide EndSARS protests.
He said: “Some of the victims of fake news included public figures, celebrities, politicians, the media, religious bodies, and several other institutions, among others.
“For instance, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi had to issue statements and release the video to debunk some allegations, credited to them. Similarly, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Nyesom Wike took an immediate step to debunk fake news about them.”
Mahmud, on his part, said, “While we should encourage freedom of expression we must be wary of disseminating fabricated and mischievous news. Relevant authorities must find a way to sanction lawlessness, in the guise of free speech, that could lead to loss of lives and properties.”
The report questioned the reliability of the accounts of some of the eyewitnesses on casualties which are published by some media to give credibility to fake reports.
The PRNigeria reports that researchers and studies have proved that over 60 percent of convictions from ‘eye witness’ accounts in the United State of America in a particular period were overturned through DNA testing.
It urges media to consider the state of mind and reputation of eyewitnesses before publishing the narratives.
The report also noted that most of the fake news were not just to misinform but deliberate disinformation geared at blinding the mind, reinforcing sentiments, aggravating anger, and inducing mob attacks, even against our security agencies, statutorily responsible for our protection and safety.
Citing a video which is presently trending on social media to corroborate the finding in the report about the alleged Lekki Shootings, it stated that “There is a video clip that went viral before being recycled in some media where supposedly ‘bloodied corpses’ were surprisingly moving their body parts as the narrator could be heard saying the military had ‘killed my people’ and was pleading to join in recording the video rather mourning the dead.”
In terms of the spread of the fake news items across the geo-political zones, the PRNigeria report revealed that about 52 fake news emerged from South-West, while 19 came out from the South East and 30 from the entire North.
On fake news peddlers, the report discovered that social media influencers constitute about 40% of those who spread the fake news, social media users constitute about 31%, while the media (including local and foreign) has 22%, and Institutions contributed a paltry 7%.
The fact-checking tools deployed to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the identified fake news include the social media users that identified 11 fake posts, Fact-Checking System detected 37 fake news items while the media confirmed the falseness of 53 stories.
The timeline of the dissemination of the fake news items indicates that about 31% of the fake stories were posted on social media between October 3 to 19, 2020 that is pre-Lekki Shootings.
On the other hand, 69% of the fake news were shared post-Lekki shootings, that is between October 20 and November 5, 2020. The full report on the Fact-finding will be out in January 2021.