Social Media Fake News Peddlers Get The Boot | Independent Newspapers Nigeria

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opened my Instagram page one morning this week and saw the news. Davido had broken up with Chef Chioma. Hmm! The Chef Chioma whom he has painted social media red with? I refused to believe it, so I went on a hunt. But those who know me can confirm that I get so distracted when I hit social media. For me, social media is like a candy store where I can’t decide on what to click. So I got distracted and moved on to other news.

A couple of hours later, I stumble into Twitter to confirm something. Don’t mind me, I get like that sometimes, jumping all over social media when I have tons of work to do.

Davido replied to a post with the headline, “Assurance expired? Davido, Chioma’s relationship hit the rocks over ‘infidelity’.” @iam_Davido’s reply reads “God punish you! See you in court bitch.” Whatever saga emerges from that, is not the crux of my story here.

The truth is that there is a lot of unconfirmed news circulating all over social media today, and there is no way to confirm it.

So when the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the National Campaign Against Fake News has received a boost from the Social Networking Platform, Facebook, on plans to partner with the Federal Government to check the menace, I almost cried out with victory.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not evil, (at least not on the job). It is just that there is so much blatant disregard of information on social media that it gets thrown in our face all the time, causing people to cast aspersions at those of us that are truly journalists ready to report ‘true’ stories.

Today, when everyone with a laptop or tablet is a self-acclaimed blogger, dumping all sorts of stories on social media to promote an obscure blog, we need to start checking it or we will lose our social media to the avalanche.

The Minister announced the planned cooperation in Abuja onTuesday, October 9 when he visited a media house in furtherance of the campaign. He said the national campaign, which was launched on July 11, 2018, has succeeded in bringing the phenomenon to the front burner of national discourse.

“We are not under any illusion that our campaign will immediately end the menace of fake news. But we know that by creating national awareness, we are putting the issue of fake news on the front burner. Fake news is now a subject of national discourse, workshops and conferences. In the coming days, the social networking web platform, Facebook, will be meeting with us and other top policy makers across the country in the days ahead to see how to assist us in fighting fake news. That, to us, is a major step forward, and we thank all our partners, and indeed all Nigerians, for this achievement,” Mohammed said.

The Minister, described fake news as a global phenomenon, said different countries are adopting various measures to tackle the menace, but said Nigeria has decided to appeal to the sense of responsibility of media practitioners, bloggers and social media influencers, instead of engaging in coercion or censorship.

He said if left unchecked, fake news has the capacity to disrupt the peace and unity of the country and it’s also a clear and present danger to the nation’s democracy.

“For example, the fake news phenomenon played out during the recent governorship elections in Osun State. Whereas 16 PDP members were arrested for various offences, including impersonating observers and for violence during the rerun, the purveyors of fake news made it look as if the APC was the perpetrators of these crimes. Also, a few days ago, fake news about the release of Leah Sharibu circulated freely on the social media. Imagine the additional trauma this would have caused for the parents. Imagine the implication on efforts to secure her release, and indeed the national security implications” Mohammed said.

He also said the campaign against fake news could not have come at a better time, considering that the 2019 general elections are fast approaching and enemies of democracy will latch on to it to wreak havoc.

For me, who actually has to sift through the garbage in search of real social media news, Christmas has come early. I’m smiling.

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