Spreading false stories and misinformation is not new to humans; incorrect information has existed since immemorial. If you are an adherent of the prominent Abrahamic religions, you’ve probably read the story of Adam, Eve, and the forbidden apple. Yes, that’s how old False News is.
Although false news has always been spread throughout history, the term “fake news” was first used in the 1890s when sensational reports in newspapers were standard – US News publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst competed for audience reporting rumours as facts.
Every day and more quickly than ever, new information and stories are released for anybody with an Internet connection to read, frequently without any independent verification. From being distributed through traditional media, fake news has evolved to target social media. With the rising tide of fake news, the debate over how much control a government should have over information has become a perennial one.
Over the years, the news media landscape has undergone a significant transformation. The reach of journalism, social media, and public involvement have all significantly expanded thanks to digital sources. Online news consumption has become commonplace, whether through Google, Twitter, Facebook, prominent newspapers, or regional media websites. Smartphone notifications and mobile applications instantly inform users around the globe of the most recent events.
Like every part of the world, Nigeria and Nigerians are not immune to the mechanics of fake news. In 2018 – a year before the 2019 general elections, stories of President Buhari being dead and replaced by a clone from Sudan named Jubril were rife. Reacting to the Jubril Al-Sudani story, Cheta Nwanze, Lead Partner at SBM Intelligence, said, “Most importantly, from my viewpoint is this: this rumour spread like wildfire is evidence of the kind of society that we are. One that thrives on unsubstantiated tales and disdains rigorous fact-checking and data gathering.”
In Nigeria, electoral seasons are very volatile, with emotions heightened. Overheating the polity, especially with fake news, should be shunned as it could throw the country into chaos. This fear was also contained in the Department of State Services (DSS) warnings early this year. The DSS had warned that fake news and hate speeches pose the biggest threat to the 2023 general elections.
Everywhere you turn, there is Fake News – on your Twitter feed, at your small religious gathering, in the taxi, at the local bar – think of the place, and there is Fake News. Tons and tons are being shared per minute on social media, and this fake news is about to spiral out of control with the 2023 elections swinging in. To prevent the country’s economic, social, political, and religious collapse, all well-meaning Nigerians must fight fake news, which is information warfare that has badly impacted the country’s political arena.
What can we do?
How to Combat Fake News Ahead of the 2023 polls
By following various persons and viewpoints, people can protect themselves against misleading information and misinformation. Relying on a small group of news sources with similar perspectives restricts the variety of information that can be found and raises the possibility that people would fall for hoaxes or false rumours. Although this approach is not entirely foolproof, it increases the likelihood of hearing a variety of well-balanced opinions on issues
Readers and viewers should exercise caution when selecting news sources online. Many internet sites use false or provocative headlines to get clicks. Even when the news hook is incorrect, they accentuate the provocative or attention-grabbing. Consumers of news should exercise caution and recognise that not all of the information they receive is accurate and that many internet outlets specifically publish misleading news. In the digital age, it is crucial to learn how to evaluate news sources and safeguard against false information.
When reading any news or information, be sure to pay close attention to the information’s source. If you hear about it on social media, don’t consider it the original because it was posted there. Before accepting or spreading information, could you try to find its source?
Never share something without first checking it. Aren’t we all tired and weary of receiving Whatsapp forwards on our phones? Don’t immediately believe information forwarded to you, whether about how to build immunity or the news about a candidate. Also, don’t forward any such information without first verifying it