In recent times, misinformation and propaganda have plagued several social and political events. There are growing concerns of Fake News—fabricated information that disseminates deceptive content, or grossly distort actual news reports and usually shared on social media platforms. It is usually intentionally and verifiably false and could mislead readers.
While deliberate acts to misinform people are not entirely new, its influence in the age of social media has been heightened to the extent that the report of the World Economic Forum in 2013 designated massive digital misinformation as a major technological and geopolitical risk.
Reports (BuzzFeed and Guardian) reveal that over 100 sites posting fake news were run by teenagers in a small town of Veles, Macedonia, as regards the 2016 US elections. In September 2017, it was announced that a Russia-based organization spent US$100,000 on advertisements promoting divisive political issues during the US presidential campaign with Facebook adding that it would provide the ads to congressional investigators.
As major social media sites continue to unveil procedures to check fake news, it is also important that we focus on it as we approach the election season in Nigeria. For example, Twitter announced the launch of an Advertising Transparency Center and new policies that provide details about all ads carried on the platform, place clear visual markers on political advertisements, disclose how political ads are targeted and strengthen policies regarding political advertising.
Ahead of the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria, Facebook has said only advertisers located in the country would be allowed to run political advertisements on the social media site. The company’s Director of Global Politics and outreach, Katie Harbath explained that the decision mirrors a policy unveiled during the Irish referendum and would also be deployed in Ukraine in February (Ahead of their elections on March 31). ” We’re learning from every country. We know we are not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement”, she explained. Apart from control over advert sources, Facebook would be deploying other tools to curb election interference in Nigeria and other countries.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) published a summary to assist people in recognizing fake news. These points have been corroborated by experts in the cognitive science of information processing. Its main points are:
1. Consider the source
(to understand its mission and purpose)
2. Read beyond the headline
(to understand the whole story)
3. Check the authors
(to see if they are real and credible)
4. Assess the supporting sources
(to ensure they support the claims)
5. Check the date of publication
(to see if the story is relevant and up to date)
6. Ask if it is a joke
(to determine if it is meant to be satire)
7. Review your own biases
(to see if they are affecting your judgement)
8. Ask experts
(to get confirmation from independent people with knowledge).
It is also important that you compare with our sources not a fall a victim of the danger of a single story.
The spread of fake news has become a disturbing phenomenon globally: the earlier we begin to take steps to insulate ourselves from them, the better for us. I mean, before you hit share or make that post, take a pause to confirm, it is better to be right than be the first to post.