Stop fake news. Sign for notifications in online stores, false information

Stop fake news. Sign for notifications in online stores, false information.

 By Samuel Eniola Adam

Gallant Officers and Distinguished members of the Press, it gives me great pleasure, honor, and privilege to stand before you here today as a Speaker, ordinarily many of you are more conversant with this topic than I do therefore the best pattern of today’s delivery will be recommendatory and suggestive in nature while further discussions can take place hereafter so that we can cross-fertilize our ideas for mutual benefit and better understanding.

 

INTRODUCTION:

Like I have said in the opening paragraph, my name is Amb. (Mayor) Samuel Eniola Adam (JP), the President/Founder of ECAPI.  ECAPI as an organization was primarily conceptualized and established to help in supporting and complementing the wonderful works of the Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria especially the Nigeria Police Force majorly in the area of crime awareness creation, crime management and control as an option to proactive crime prevention. We are primarily and selflessly engaged in the tasking but selfless activities of advocating for a crime free society for all as we believe that ‘prevention is better than cure’.  As one popular adage says, that ‘it is cheaper and easier to prevent crime than to fight crime’. Our major and voluntary service to the nation Nigeria and the world at large is purely and absolutely humanitarian, charitable and patriotic.

 

In view of today’s theme, l will like to start by saying that social media somehow has virtually turned everyone to journalists, reporters and publishers via easy access to the internet with both genuine and fake information with its damaging effects on the people and also a major threat to our national security.  But what really is ‘fake news’? How did it come about? What implications does it have for national security? And how can it be curtailed with the view to promoting credible elections and our national security?

 

To begin with, Fake News is a false and misleading information or narrative, it could also be an instrument of propaganda as well as information disorder. “Fake News” can also be defined as “fabricated information that mimics media content deliberately created and circulated with the intent to deceive”.  It is a medium through which social vices like hate speech is circulated to fuel electoral violence, ethno-religious crises, political tension, tribal sentiment, character assassination etc. The primary aim of promoters and mongers of fake news is to instigate acts capable of causing disunity and civil disorders among the people.  Unfortunately, more than ever before, the media for spreading fake news are available and affordable. With the emergence of information and communication technologies, particularly the social media, fake news is created at will and disseminated with great ease. This situation portends great danger to national security.

 

In Nigeria today, fake news have assumed a disturbing dimension in recent times. Its damaging implications cut across every fiber of a people’s communal life; from politics to religion, from business to social life. Perhaps, the most pronounced area of concern over fake news, particularly in this country is national security, which unarguably is, the greatest challenge of the country at the moment. As we all know, national security is an essential necessity for economic development and the total wellbeing of a nation.

 

A BRIEF HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF FAKE NEWS IN NIGERIA

Information fabrication otherwise known as ‘fake news’ is not new. Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda have been features of human communication, but never before, has there been a technology to so effectively disseminate it.  In Nigeria, fake news, be it intentional or unintentional is equally not new. For instance, in November 1989, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) announced the death of the first Governor General and President of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe. By the next morning, the news was on the front pages of most of the country’s newspapers. Thirty year later, rumours circulated that President Buhari had died during one of his lengthy absences from Nigeria in 2017 on medical grounds and that he had been replaced by a clone called Jubril from Sudan. It took two days before Azikwe was able to clear the air about the state of his health and informed the world that he was still alive and the false claim was relatively contained. The supposed death of President Mohammed Buhari in contrast spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, so much so that he had to address the false claim at News Conferences and on various occasions.

 

TYPES OF FAKE NEW

According to Dr. Claire Wardle of the American University, he breaks fake news into three categories which are as follows:

 

Mis-information: Many of us fall within this category of wanting to break the news first in the name of cut, paste and post while unknowingly misinforming many without proper verification of what we are sharing and its damaging effects on the polity. Most people within this category meant no harm and might not even be aware of the implications of spreading such unverified/fake news but as it were, there is no ignorance in law. So we must all be careful

Dis-information: This category of fake news is deliberately spread and it is meant to achieve certain ulterior motives or cause disorder in the society through such manipulative information which is a threat to peace and security.

Mal-information: This category is considered to be true but mostly spread in a malicious manner and distorted in its context in order to change the original narrative or facts of the matter.

 

THE PUBLIC AND FAKE NEWS

Over time, events in history have shown that fake news have the potency to cause unnecessarily but ugly scenarios, create security challenges and series of havocs like electoral disruptions/violence, ethno/religious conflicts, economic instability, leadership mistrust, jungle justice, character assassination, political terrorism, social extremisms, total breakdown of law and orders, armed thuggery, strangulation of enabling socio-economic progress etc and then truncate government’s good security plans to say the least usually before, during and after most political elections since 1999.  The trends of fake news and wrong information in Nigeria today is strongly and vehemently pronounced most especially on social media considering its alarming growth rate.

 

EFFECTS OF FAKE NEWS ON SECURITY AS 2023 GENERAL ELECTION APPROACHES

Distinguished Guests, it is imperative for us to know that fake news is nothing but the evil of creating unnecessary tension in the society with the sole aim of changing people’s believe and orientations towards a particular situation.  At the moment, nothing seems to threaten the peace and tranquility of the Nigeria State like the menace of fake news because it has emerged as the propeller to the forces that engender insecurity.  This position was recently acknowledged by Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed who submitted that fake news threatens the peace, security and corporate existence of Nigeria, describing it as a time bomb waiting to explode.  The implications of fake news traverse almost all the social vices associated with the Nigerian society to fuel one form of crises or the other. So, how does fake news fuel these vices and insecurity in Nigeria?

 

Electoral Violence: election is an indispensable element of a genuine and meaningful democratic process. It promotes competitive politics, guarantees political participation and entrenches rule of law. However, over the years, elections in Nigeria have been marred by disruptions and violence leading to the loss of many lives and properties. The unfortunate thing about some of the violence is that they were instigated by news that were never real.  Unlike other types of information, news plays a particular role in democratic societies; it is a key source of accurate information about political and social affairs, which informs public opinion and deliberative processes. If news is ‘fake’, it misinforms the public and democratic debate is polluted at the very source thereby leading to unpopularity of electoral victories with the attendant potential of rejection and revolt by the people.  Most of the panics and anxieties that characterize elections in Nigeria are generated and transmitted by peddlers of fake stories who have no incentive to be honest. Using the instrumentality of the social media, they fabricate false insightful materials about political parties, political actors, and electoral body to cause tension in the country. In some cases, they go the extent of concocting and spreading fake election results which are not authenticated by the electoral umpire, thereby fueling widespread violence when the original results go contrary to the already circulated fake ones.

 

Ethno/Religious Conflicts:

Ethno/religious conflicts are unarguably the greatest source of violence in Nigeria. There are about 250 ethnic groups speaking over 500 different languages across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Greater number of Nigerians owe their allegiance first to their tribe/ethnic group, followed by their religion with very little interest in the entity called Nigeria. The ethno/religious fabric of the Nigerian system is so delicate that it is at the centre of every widespread violence in this country.   According to News Wires (2019), manufactured lies in the guise of news endangers the delicate ethno-religious fabric of Nigeria. Of particular concern is the fabrication of stories pitting the country’s mainly Muslim North against the predominantly Christian South, a traditional fault line often used by proponents of restructuring the current federal system and even breaking it up.   For instance, there are a plethora of fake stories circulated through the social media with the ultimate mission of inciting fear, anxiety, suspicion, disunity across ethnic groups in Nigeria. A recent statement credited to Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, the leader of the Miyetti Allah Group, with a bold headline “south east will boil any moment from now because of their stubbornness” where he was alleged to have said that, “since they (the south easterners) are claiming to be stubborn, and had refused to give them their lands in peace, it will be taken by force and entire south east will be raided and taken over by the herdsmen (Siddiki, 2019). Expectedly, the news turned out to be what l will describe as “False Connection” (when headlines or captions do not support the content). Basically false in its entirety but capable of causing serious civil unrest.

 

Leadership/Public Mistrust: fake news is also used as instrument for gaining political advantage especially during electioneering. In this circumstance, political actors and their supporters peddle all manners of propaganda and fake stories to smear and dint the public image of their opponents. In order words, they engage in carefully planned and systematic character assassination to diminish public perception of individuals perceived as obstacles. A good example of this scenario can be drawn from the incidence of January 2012 when the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) announced the removal of fuel subsidy which led to the some hike in the prices of petroleum products. The opposition party responded almost immediately by mobilizing Nigerians against the then Government, claiming that no such thing as fuel subsidy existed in Nigeria; that it was a ploy by the PDP led Government to loot the treasury of the Nation. What ensued was a massive revolt, demonstrations and crisis that crippled economic activities in the country for days; and a subsequent loss of a re-election bid by Dr Jonathan in 2015.

 

Jungle Justice: security is a comprehensive protective system put in place to ensure that lives and properties of citizens are safe and secured. In recent times, the phenomena called jungle justice has been on the rise, resulting to the unnecessary loss of lives of citizens in very uncanny ways.  It is a form of public extrajudicial killings, where an alleged criminal is publically humiliated, beaten or summarily executed by a crowd. The spread of fake news is obviously one of the fueling factors contributing to the rising cases of jungle justice. Cases abound in Nigeria where people are victimized for unverified allegations by mischief makers spread through the social media.  Fake news is unarguably a social phenomenon that is prominently promoting insecurity. Therefore, any sincere effort at tackling insecurity in the country most include strategies for curbing the menace of fake news comprehensively. In this regard, I will now proceed to discuss some strategies for curbing fake news in Nigeria.

 

STRATEGIES FOR CURBING FAKE NEWS IN NIGERIA

Fake news is harmful to our nation, it makes the country less informed, erodes public trust and threatens national security. Therefore, all relevant stakeholders have a responsibility in addressing the menace of fake news. From the media perspective, it is believed that, most fake news is financially motivated; and one of the most effective approaches to fighting it, is by removing the economic incentives for traffickers of misinformation who make money by masquerading as legitimate news publishers and posting false information that get people to visit their sites. Additionally, telecommunications companies should build new products to identify and limit the spread of fake news on their plat forms.

 

Also, relevant stakeholders should be supported in developing participatory and transparent initiatives for creating a better understanding of the impact of disinformation and propaganda on democracy, freedom of expression, journalism and civic space, as well as appropriate responses to these phenomena. Government must as well find a way to support its core traditional media for acceptability over social media. Nigeria in particular must ensure that its national newspapers and television stations are sustainable to practice quality journalism that will be acceptable and preferable to the people. The need to rebuild trust in the traditional media is born out of the fact that political encroachment is having very negative impacts on most media houses in Nigeria, making most Nigerians to believe that every piece of news is either out rightly fake or fake with a touch of real.  Furthermore, the Government should promote media and digital literacy as part of regular school curriculum and by engaging with civil society and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the issue of fake news.

 

TIPS ON HOW TO IDENTIFY FAKE NEWS

Here are some tips on how to identify fake news:

  1. Consider the source of the Information: investigate the site, its mission and its contact information
  2. Read beyond the Headlines: most headlines are usually sensational in order to attract people’s attention, so read beyond the headlines to get the details of the news.
  3. Check the Author: do a quick cheek on the author to ascertain his/her credibility
  4. Investigate the Article: do some quick investigations. First check the date to ensure that it is current. Most fake news are just old stories been presented as new events.
  5. Develop a Critical and Evaluative Mindset: fake news are usually sensationalistic. Go beyond the sensations and ask critical mental questions about the ultimate reason behind the story. Does this story sound truthful?
  6. Examine the Evidence: credible stories usually include sufficient facts and figures. Therefore, critically examine the evidence to determine that something actually happened, or if the facts have been twisted to back up a particular point of view.
  7. Look out for Fake Images: using modern editing software, people now create fake images that look real to support fake stories. You can use the Google Reverse Image Search to check if an image has been altered or used in the wrong context.
  8. Search for Other Sources: as a rule, always have at least two reputable sources for a story before you do anything with such story. Ensure you find other source(s) to confirm the story.
  9. When in doubt, ask the professionals: you can visit fact-checking websites like FactCheck.org, International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), PoltiFact.com, Snopes.com, among others to verify your facts.
  10. Stay Away from Unverifiable News: as much as possible, stay away from any news that you cannot verify its authenticity. Do not share it.

 

CONCLUSION

If Nigeria must match in the path of free, fair and credible elections for the 2023 general elections, the challenges of fake news on security must be reasonably curtailed. As has been established earlier, the menace of fake news is contributing to escalate the security woes of the country. It is fuelling hatred, ethno-religious conflicts, political violence, leadership mistrust, economic instability, inter-tribal anxiety, character assassination, and ultimately posing serious threats to national development. Indeed, the trend of fake news may be impossible to eradicate, but its negative implications can be reduced or managed if all stakeholders take committed responsibility in doing all that need to be done.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

In addition to the already suggested strategies for curbing the negative implications of fake news in national security, the following are recommended:

  1. The Federal Government through its agencies like the Ministry of Information and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should intensify campaigns against fake news in Nigeria, particularly as it concerns the 2023 general elections and our national security.
  2. The mass media and media practitioners should make deliberate effort to counter the evil of fake news as an instrument of political warfare and propaganda in the forthcoming elections.
  3. The media/journalists must purge themselves of untrained and fake journalists with uncensored news reportage.
  4. Media practitioners must see themselves as change agents working in synergy with the Police towards ensuring news posted should be in its right perspective in order not to jeopardize the peace and electoral process of the coming elections.
  5. The security agencies themselves should champion the campaign against fake news by evolving penetrative strategies comprehensive enough to educate their communities and relevant stakeholders on the threats of fake news to national security.
  6. The media regulating agencies like the Nigerian Press Commission should insist on media professionalism from media houses and professionals in order to avoid using them as instruments for the spread of propaganda especially by the elite/political class.
  7. Law Enforcement Agencies should also collaborate more with Security NGOs like the Eagle Crime Awareness and Prevention Initiative (ECAPI) for broad and in-depth advocacy campaigns across the country on the dangers of fake news on the upcoming elections and our national security.
  8. Government should as well take steps to guide and regulate the social media space to curb fake news as being done in some other countries like Uganda, China etc

 

In conclusion, l appreciate and commend the organizers of today’s symposium with the opportunity to address this unique gathering and l enjoined us all to always verify any news and as well, weigh its security implications on our Nation’s policies, particularly as we approach 2023 general elections for peace and a more secured nation for all.

Amb. (Mayor) Samuel Eniola Adam

President/Founder, ECAPI Worldwide

January 12, 2023

 

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