The Fake News Saga: Can Media Stem the Tide in Nigeria?
By Nusaiba Mukhtar Yau
The act of altering information has been long before the emergence of social media, and it has been an active component of history for a long time, even before the advent of modern journalism, through established norms that define news as a genre based on specific rules of integrity.
Throughout history and across cultures, information has occupied a critical role in the functioning of any community. Today’s world, with its rapid technological breakthroughs, is characterized by easy access to the gathering, processing, and dissemination of information.
In an ideal situation, the word “news” stands for reliable information in the public interest; hence, any information that does not match these aforementioned qualifications does not warrant the name “news.”
Today, people seek information for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, comfort, empowerment, learning, and knowledge to act, among others. However, not all information is relevant and trustworthy to them.
The advent of the ICT and Internet, on the other hand, facilitates the flow and openness of information while also increasing the likelihood of inaccuracy or misuse of information.
However, the level of mutual contact between users and sources might influence the legitimacy of online information. Fake news are lies spread for selfish reasons, and like all lies, they inflict suffering on people who believe them.
This is why Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed is reported as saying, “the global epidemic of fake news is already having far-reaching ramifications across the world.”
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) once reported that fake news circulating on social media is a major factor responsible for the fueling of the farmers/herdsmen crisis in Nigeria, stating that “fake pictures circulating on social media which users are falsely claiming depict inter-communal violence are inflaming already high tensions in Nigeria.”
In the end, we can clearly see that the fake news saga most often leads to confusion, tension, and even suicidal ideation, depending on the person or institution in question, while on the other hand, it dilutes serious media coverage, making it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories.
In attempting to seek and find long-term solutions to the problem of fake news, it must be remembered that if there is a solution, and a long-term one at that, we must recognize from the start that it must be a collective effort, not just a function of the government or media outlets, but a collective responsibility we owe ourselves, and this responsibility must be carried out consciously and carefully.
Nigeria as a country must seek and find a way to ensure that its print media and TV stations are known to practice quality journalism, as this would boost their acceptability by the people; once that is accomplished, Nigeria may consider take into account independent media regulation, as this would definitely reduce the attention that is poured on fake media outlets and make identifying and punishing those who get spread for spitefully published information Librarians, as information professionals, may pave the path toward an information commons through information and media literacy abilities.
Nusaiba Mukhtar Yau, department of Mass Communication, Skyline University Nigeria, [email protected]