In this post, we will look at Fake News in Nigeria. Here you will see what fake news is all about, its causes, effects on national development and possible solutions.
What is fake news?
- A false story?
- Outright bullshit?
- Information that involves a motive to deceive?
- Nonsense or empty words?
- The deliberate spreading of true and false stories to confuse the public?
- Or just about any well-researched truth that dares go against the rich and powerful?
Which of these definitions makes sense to you?
In my opinion, the phrase itself is…..
A mess of conflicting meanings.
But why is fake news so easy to believe?
Why do Nigerians believe it all the time?
What can be done to limit or stop the spread of fake news in Nigeria?
A few facts that should interest you:
- Fake news -2017’s word of the year (Collins Dictionary)
- Nigerians are more likely to believe fake news that supports their beliefs
- Nigerians are less likely to believe fake news that challenges their beliefs
- Fake news -Donald Trump’s favorite words.
- Fake news –The most used words of politicians who can’t stand the truth.
- Fake news in Nigeria –more dangerous than any sane person would expect.
And here’s why:
Modern technology (and maybe psychology) have created a perfect storm for super-super fake news to be perpetuated with extreme ease.
In the blink of an eye, and with the click of a button; you can retweet misleading information to 20,000 Nigerians–the results of which could spark heated controversy and needless….
War all over Nigeria!
Let me tell you a story that in my opinion, was the most talked about subject in Nigeria before the 2019 general elections.
Can you guess?
It doesn’t matter.
That story was so manipulative, so profitable –bloggers and vloggers must have made a fortune sharing links and backlinks on articles and updates about the said controversy.
That’s the only thing they (98% of them) care about anyway –outrageous sums of money, not truth.
For the social media influencer or blogger who relies on clicks for a living, sharing links with sensational headlines on trending news can be very tempting…..
Because it is profitable!
Do you remember the Jubril Aminu –President Buhari story?
If that story was a book, it would have become an instant bestseller.
No arguments there.
“The man you are looking at is not Buhari –His name is Jubril, he’s from Sudan. After extensive surgery, they brought him back”
–Nnamdi Kanu speaking to IPOB supporters.
Can’t you just see the average Nigerian nodding in interested agreement?
And here’s the reply that came through the minister for information and culture:
“It is idiotic to say that the president is cloned. I don’t see any serious government responding to that”
“So the same Jubril that was cloned from Sudan is now in Chad? Isn’t that stupid?”
“The same Jubril is remembering what [Buhari] did when he was head of state between 1983 and 1985”
“All the ministers do not know who is before them when they attended the FEC meeting? The president remembers memos from way back in 1985 and we say he’s cloned?”
“So Jubril from Sudan or Chad will now remember all of these?”
Not the most compelling of replies, but you don’t need a PHD in common sense to see the logic in his statement at that press conference in Abuja.
Eventually, President Muhammadu Buhari did put a final nail in the coffin by making a statement prior his 76th birthday:
“Somebody just thought I am cloned, it is the real me, I assure you. I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong”
Not that you should care:
But the whole essence of the above illustration was to point out a widely ignored fact about fake news and here’s what I mean:
“If fake news is ignored, if it is allowed to sink into the collective psyche of the masses, no amount of debunking can repair the damage done and as such, if you must fight fake news, it is extremely important that you nip it in the bud –crush it completely, as quickly as it is brought to your attention.”
The more emotional impact fake news has on its target audience…. The more difficult it is to…..
Convince them otherwise!
Of course, at the end of the day, any fool can believe fake news specifically designed as a tool for mass control of the masses, but it takes a very skeptical mind to see through the lies and apparent lack of evidence.
But I don’t want you to get me wrong, more often than not, the real truth can be waved off as fake news if it seeks to expose shady dealings that could turn the people against very powerful figures, and even the government.
And usually, it’s easier for the federal government or the guilty billionaire to turn the table against the incorruptible journalist just trying to do his job.
Here’s a little glimpse at some causes of fake news in Nigeria:
- The rise of the internet
- The shift from paper to digital media.
- Information now travels faster
- The high demand for entertainment-fueled news.
- Media illiteracy
- It is almost impossible to impose strict penalties on perpetrators of fake news.
- Greed for profits
- Character assassination and quest for political advantage
- A desire to mislead.
- A desire for mass control.
You know, it is far easier for people to believe a fake story that supports their suspicions than it is for them to believe a truth that debunks deep-seated beliefs.
So if you feel that a larger percentage of Nigerians are not happy with the President, a very effective strategy for political opponents would be spreading some hot fake news about the commander-in-chief
And what are the effects of fake news in Nigeria?
Fake news has always been around, except nowadays, the difference lies in how it’s been spread, read –and…
The alarming speed at which all of this happens.
The effects of fake news can be very destructive;
- Fake news is frequently shared on social media, making it difficult to separate the truth from lies.
- Increasing distrust and hatred for the mainstream media.
- A tendency to dismiss the truth as fake news
- Innocent lives are endangered
And above all, I believe there are a few possible solutions to fake news in Nigeria:
If you say that the president is dead, and has been cloned, you had better be able to provide verifiable proof, because if you can’t, you deserve to have a legal experience so horrible, you’ll….
Spend the rest of your days having nightmares!
Personally, I think it’s almost impossible to bring all perpetrators of fake news in Nigeria to book, but on the few occasions when the source is physically traceable, the offenders should be made to regret their actions.
Also, I believe technological innovation makes it possible to track the source and location from whence the fake news originated.
But I also believe the government will abuse it –they’ll probably start hunting down all political rivals in the name of tackling fake news and fighting corruption.
Alright truth seeker, here’s a few possible solutions to fake news in Nigeria
- The first thing is just plain common sense
- Don’t believe everything you read
- Do your own unbiased research (not because you want to discredit a truth you don’t like, but because you want to be sure you’ve not be manipulated into believing a lie).
- Caution when assessing information (internet or paper)
- Complete eradication of partisanship from journalism (if you can’t report the news as it is, if you can’t avoid reporting news to favour a particular point of view, you have no business sharing it.)
- Immediately discredit fake news once you have solid proof! (share it to your friends and ask them to share with their friends who should share it with their friends and so on)
- Nationwide media broadcasts on the dangers of fake news
- Sensitization in schools and religious institutions
I’m sure you have a few ideas.
Sharing those ideas with your friends on social media?
The dangers of fake news are as real as hot urine that flows from your organ.
And we both know I’m not asking for your blood and sweat.
All I’m saying is, just do the little you can to make sure it doesn’t get worse.
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