• Friday, September 29, 2023
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From news to fake News: Separating the wheat from the chaff

Violence, fake news top INEC’s worries ahead of elections

The preponderance of electronic gadgets and, especially, social media platforms and blogs, has made it easy to spread news across the world. Gone are the decades that one must wait till news time to get or verify happenings; the advent of social media has made news readily available to everyone right on the spot of happening.

Although it is often said that bad news is good news for the media, the increase in the number of bloggers and others who make money through online posts, in addition to constant visits to their online spaces, has resulted in fake news. This piece will briefly discuss news and its basic features, then move on to fake news, how to identify it and what can be done to stop the spread of such news.

News can be defined as a timely report of an odd and catchy event. It must be noted that it is not all reports and information that are newsworthy. Imagine if someone tells you now that Mandela is dead; this will not count as news because it is not timely.

There are few other features of news aside from timeliness; one of them is magnitude. While it will not be newsworthy to announce on a national daily or television that an individual died anywhere in the country, it would be worth reporting if it were the death of ten or more people, given the number involved. Prominence is another essential feature of news.

Any media outlet may not report it if a random person buys 50 million naira’s worth of car, but such would be worth reporting if the individual involved were a prominent person like an artiste or a politician. Proximity is another feature of news.

People find any report newsworthy if it has happened somewhere close to them or their allies. Next, objectivity and clarity are two other important features of news. A news item is expected to report an incident without any bias for one or more of the bodies involved.

Fabrications, falsification, complications and sentiments must not be promoted by any media house in the interest of its dignity and integrity. A news item must not be ambiguous. In other words, it must clearly state what it intends to disclose.

Moving on, the online Cambridge Dictionary defines fake news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.” Fake news is usually false or misleading.

At other times, fake news amplifies incidents in order to damage or promote the reputation of an individual or group for different kinds of gain. The term, fake news, is not new in human history; its first use dates back to the 1890s. However, the spread of the internet and the increasing number of social media and blogs have made it more common in recent times.

Fake news is also deployed as a countermove by privileged people, in the event of any news that is unfavourable to them. It should be noted that, many times, fake news has elements of truth. It might, however, blow an event out of proportion, use inflammatory language or fail to properly capture the context of an event.

Fake news emanates from many sources for different reasons. It emanates from politicians and their subjects who wish to influence electoral decisions and who could decide to spread false information about other candidates. Bloggers whose gains are tied to clicks, likes and comments also fabricate and misrepresent events.

Incumbent governments also deploy fake news for political propaganda and to endear themselves to the citizenry. In recent times, satirists who simply want to entertain or push political agenda have also become agents of fake news.

Read also: 6 ways to identify fake news websites ahead of 2023 elections

There have been many suggestions on how to identify and stop fake news, and five of them will be presented in this article. First, for any item of news you get, you do not have the right to believe or share it until you get it from other reliable sources. It should be mentioned that reading anything through a link or a blog does not make it real.

You have to verify any piece of information from other known and reliable sources before you accept it. With the advent of the internet, any reliable news would have been shared as breaking news by at least five media outlets in less than twenty minutes of the occurrence.

Secondly, the personality of the individual sharing any item of news should be a parameter to determine the veracity of such news. You cannot afford to trust information from people who rely on broadcasts without fact-checking news for themselves. Also, be a critical listener/reader. A simple logical reading of some posts gives them away as being baseless.

It can also be useful to read the comments following an online news item to determine if it is real or not. Lastly, be sure of the writer’s intention before accepting a piece of news or information. Satirists could fabricate stories just to entertain, so it is essential to get the full gist of any post and also be sure of the writer’s intent before accepting or sharing it.

The last segment of this treatise addresses the creation of broadcasts. Broadcasts are created when there are awful events such as fights, gridlocks and whatnot. It is important for people who write such broadcasts to contextualise it appropriately, especially within time frames.

It will be wrong, for instance, to simply say, “Avoid the Third Mainland Bridge this morning as there is a serious gridlock.” The writer of this BC has not considered the possibility of some persons getting to see this broadcast days after and taking it to be a recent message.

The broadcast above could be better written thus: “Avoid the Third Mainland Bridge this Friday morning, the 15th of October 2022, as there is a serious gridlock.” Anyone who sees this will be mindful of the time of the reported situation.

News, information and broadcasts put us in the know as members of a society. It is, however, important to be wary of fake news and broadcasts that lack adequate details.