Editorial: The fight against Fake News is a collective effort

The introduction of new media into the society was welcome by all and sundry. Information is swiftly and widely circulated within a twinkle of an eye. Information is gotten on the go as people get news of happenings around and even beyond their immediate environment. News is now at the finger tip. Conventional news outlets coupled with the advent of freelance journalists, bloggers and online news platforms all make news available for the populace to be informed.

Journalism is as old as you may think of and the profession has evolved over the years. Journalists are the first point of call when information is to be accessed and of course, they are believed to always have first hand information. This is true and is not debatable.

 Globally, the freedom of information is being fought for in a bid to access information from the political and social leaders. The urge to have information has led to the increase in the population of freelance journalists, online news media and bloggers who enjoy an overwhelming number of followers who stay glued to them for first hand information.

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This new trend in conjunction with the possibility of posting information on social media pages with little or no restriction has brought about the new phenomenon known as "fake news." It is now a continuous re-occurrence in the media space (most especially social media) to have people make claims which at the end are discovered to be untrue and misleading. Fake news has led to many untold occurrences which if left unchecked can grow out of proportion.

The danger posed by the spread of unverified, misleading information is better imagined than experienced. People use such news to malign, mislead, misinform and even create political, social and religious disharmony among the populace. The outbreak of "ebola" few years back saw the spread of various medically and scientifically unauthorised preventive measures among which is the "bathing with and consumption of salt." Nigeria has had her own share of the new phenomenon. Unverified news few years back claimed that the incumbent President of the country, Muhammadu Buhari was dead and that the seat is presently being occupied by someone named Jubril from Niger Republic.

 This and many more unsubstantiated information have continued to be in the media space. The recent corona virus pandemic coupled with the initial closure of non essential businesses and educational institutions further made the spread of misleading information about the pandemic rampant.

Political leaders and social influencers, are usually cut in the web of this new menace. Many fail to verify posts shared on social media by those they claim to follow and do not blink an eye in reposting write ups and news they come across various media. Some bloggers who are much more interested in getting traffic to their website have been found to be culpable of disseminating information which are later found out to be false and misleading. The surge in the spread of these "misleading and unverified information" is a time bomb that must be fought and reduced to the bearest minimum.

The continuous spread of fake news can lead to ethnic, religious, civil and social unrest and disharmony in the society. Members of the public who fail to verify news they come across most importantly on online media tend to fall victim of this disharmony and unnecessary tension created by such unverified information. It is high time news are verified before spreading them further. Most importantly, discourse around political, religious, ethnic, health and other social issues should be carefully and thoroughly scrutinised and verified in order to avoid misinforming and misleading the populace. It is better to be uninformed than to be misinformed. 

The evil posed by fake news and it's continuous spread need to be cut short now through concerted effort. News articles should be verified especially when they are termed "breaking news."

 Fact checking news outlets are now readily available for verification of news articles and other information. The fight against fake news is a collective one which must be jointly fought. "If it is not true, if it is not authentic, then, don't spread it. Fake news is like a poison.