Curbing fake news pandemic

The heat from false news stories is also spreading faster and evidently stifling opportunities and growth in other sectors. “…84% of businesses feel threatened by fake news about their products. It’s particularly worrying for…businesses where the practice of targeted misinformation designed to harm a company’s reputation has been more acutely weaponised…,” a report, cited in www.cnbcafrica.com, projects. Another report, cited in www.goethe.de, claims, “the prevalence of fake news has made the fighting of diseases more complicated for Nigeria’s government and its healthcare sector.”

Interestingly, there is nothing suggesting that the promoters of fake news are backing down soon. So, what should a serious-minded government do? Turn a blind eye to the increasing threats? Initiate measures aimed at stemming the tide? The Federal Government settled for the latter. Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Information Minister recently launched a campaign against fake news. The minister, during that launch, reportedly stressed that “there is an epidemic sweeping the world. If left unchecked, it could be worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded put together. It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security. It is a threat to democracy. It is the epidemic of fake news. Mixed with hate speech, it is a disaster waiting to happen.”  For Tolu Ogunlesi, a media assistant to President Buhari, “… naming and shaming of members that peddle fake news” could stem the problem.

Some government-funded agencies like the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) are equally not leaving any stone unturned in checking the cited abuses. NBC, saddled with the regulation of the broadcasting sector, recently sanctioned some outfits for breaches.

It, however, cannot be over-stressed that the country is still in dire need of better approaches in spotting and preventing potential fake news. The best solution, some concerned stakeholders suggest, is timely and efficient capturing of all media exposures. “Typically, individuals or organisational clients e.g. private companies and corporations, charities, government departments and ministries…subscribe to a media monitoring service to keep track of what is being said about them, their field of operations, their competitors, or other related specified topics of interest,” notes Wikipedia.  In Nigeria, media monitoring was not seen as a priority by most businesses until recently. Pre-1995, media compliance in the market was said to be around 50%, causing marketers enormous headaches.

Sunday Odiaka, Lagos

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