Fake news, hate speech and Nigeria’s struggle for democratic consolidation: A conceptual review

The book chapter titled, Fake News, Hate Speech and Nigeria’s Struggle for Democratic Consolidation: A Conceptual Review was authored by Professor Umaru A. Pate (Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria) and Adamkolo Mohammed Ibrahim (Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, Nigeria and PhD research candidate, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano). The chapter is the sixth in an edited book titled, Handbook of Research on Politics in the Computer Age. The book was edited by Ashu M. G. Solo of Maverick Technologies America Incorporated, USA.
The chapter attempts to offer a new view into the definitions of the concept of fake news. The chapter also provided understanding about the impacts of fake news and hate speech in Nigerian democratic terrain, while offering some recommendations for curbing the negative effects of fake news and hate speech to preserve the country’s hard-earned democratic values and processes and national unity.
The chapter consists of five major sections: background, in which fake news and hate speech definitions are analysed; literature review, which provides information about existing research in this area, i.e., on fake news and hate speech; solution and recommendations, which suggests future research directions; and conclusion and implications, which provides the concluding remarks of the chapter.
In the first section, the authors provide an in-depth analysis of the terms fake news and hate speech, establishing a conceptual link between the two terms, especially in the context of political communication regarding misinformation and inciteful media content. The authors further explain that for one to understand the fake news and hate speech in the Nigerian polity, he or she must understand the ethnoreligious conflicts, violent political culture and propaganda that can be so pervasive and widespread across or within states and/or regions. Most importantly, most ethnoreligious conflicts have political undertones.
Therefore, the outcome of the convergence of the aforementioned three ‘undesirable elements’ namely, ethnoreligious conflicts, violent political culture and propaganda is a compound terminology – fake news and hate speech – that is capable of disseminating disinformation virally and inciting wide-scale violence that often leads to deaths, displacement of people, destruction of property and robbing the society of the peace and harmony necessary for informed democratic participation by the citizenry.
In the second section of the chapter, the authors reviewed extant literature with a view to provide the reader with a critical updated information about the research studies that have been done in this particular area of research; this is to situate their research work in the framework of existing research in fake news and hate speech both locally in Nigeria and globally. Prof Pate and Mr Adamkolo Mohammed Ibrahim split the second section of the chapter into the following headings: ‘Fake News and Social Media in Nigeria’, ‘The Impacts of Fake News on Nigerian Democratic System’ and ‘Conceptual Definition of Fake News’ in which the scholars define fake news as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”. To help towards scientific definitions of fake news, the authors designed a conceptual framework that was derived from the extant literature review and proposed that it be adopted based on a quantitative approach. The conceptual framework focuses on providing an understanding on fake news based on the type of the sources of fake information and the degree of the likely influences of fake news on the nation’s democratic process.
One of the two critical concepts that the authors wrote on is ‘hate speech’. The scholars enumerate some factors that associate with hate speech including insulting others because of their religion, abusing others because of their ethnic or linguistic affiliations, expressing contempt against others because of their places of origin, disparaging or intimidating women or girls because of their gender and acts capable of leading to gender-based violence. Furthermore, as Prof Pate and Mr Adamkolo noted, hate speech also encompasses condoning discriminatory assertions or statements against a group or groups of people, denigrating or ridiculing traditional or cultural institutions of others and deliberately spreading falsehood or rumours that are demeaning, demonizing, maligning or ostracizing others based on religion, ethnicity, gender or place of origin for the accident of one form of disability or the other. The scholars went further to stress that fake news and hate speech can create chaos capable of disrupting the peace in the society thereby undermining Nigeria’s democratic process.
In the third section of the chapter, the authors highlight some critical means of identifying fake information in order to restrain the spread of fake news in the society, especially in the Nigerian context. Among the factors they enumerate are: (i) to check and verify sources of information: that is, to encourage people and stations to fall back on most trusted news brands they could rely on for their news; (ii) to look at multiple sources: that is, to use online information verification tools; (iii) to think before broadcasting/publishing a story; and (iv) the necessity for media literacy among Nigerians, which can increase the standard of education and media literacy particularly for young people regarding what is genuine and verifiable information and what is fake. The authors further recommend that funding, ethics, partnership, credibility, media skills, regulation, collaboration, media literacy, professionalism, gatekeeping and self-censorship and detection are important steps toward fighting the menace of fake news and hate speech in the society.
In the fourth section of the chapter, the authors suggest some directions for further research. According to them, future research should focus on providing scientifically acceptable and locally standardized definitions of fake news and hate speech given the pervasiveness of the problems (especially in recent years) in the country as the nation could be enmeshed in the ‘dark webs’ of the internet and social media if fake news and hate speech prevail over our democratic values.
In the final section of their work, the authors conclude that, if fake news and hate speech are a weapon of ‘mass democratic destruction’, then it would not be out of place to declare that Nigeria and its democratic process are already ‘under attack’. The authors also highlight some critical scenarios that are likely to occur (as mentioned earlier) during democratic exercises such as elections, with implications of fake news and hate speech on Nigeria’s democratic process as articulated by many communication scholars.
On a general note, this chapter offers scholars, journalists and practitioners in communication and journalism studies and teaching distinct concepts of fake news and hate speech and their dynamic impacts in the Nigerian democratic process. The chapter leaves the reader with useful observations and ideas on how to restrain the spread of fake news in the society, especially in the Nigerian context. I have immensely enjoyed reading and expanding my understanding of fake news and hate speech in Nigerian context through this chapter and recommend it for everybody to read and digest it, especially journalists, media workers, students of mass communication and journalism, politicians and scholars.
Authors: Prof. Umaru A. Pate and Malam Adamkolo Mohammed Ibrahim, MSc
Book: Handbook of Research on Politics in the Computer Age
Publisher: IGI Global
Location of Publication: Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Copyrighted Date of Publication: 2020
Number of Pages: 23 (pages 89 to 112)
Chapter: 6th
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0377-5.ch006
ISSN: 2475-6814
eISSN: 2475-6830
• Reviewer: Modu Alhaji Bukar, Master’s Candidate, Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri. Modu can be reached through his e-mail address: modu140@gmail.com or his mobile phone: 08033647400. 
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