Four Reasons You Should Reject Fake News And How To Identify It

By Laolu Akande

First let me say how liberating to be back to the life of a journalist. I will say more on this very soon. For now I am burdened as a citizen on the problem of Fake news. Having served 8 years as a public servant working as a political appointee, I have witnessed the inherent damages of fake news. As you can imagine I have been a serial victim myself, most time on behalf of my principal.

Here are 4 reasons citizens and in our case, Nigerians should reject fake news.

1. Fake news worsens the cynicism between governments and their people. In fact, fake news ab intio thrives on that distrust. The problem is, while a certain level of cynicism would always exist in society and especially between governments and their people, fake news escalates it and makes the needed synergy between governments and their people difficult if not impossible. Danger is, no series or sustainable development is possible without such synergy. Fake news damages that.

2. Fake news rubbishes the notion of a free and illustrious press.* It was Thomas Jefferson who said on Jan 16 1787 that the โ€œbasis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.โ€ So you can imagine how fake news messes with the development of the peopleโ€™s opinion. Therefore every loyal citizen must actively reject fake news because it would blur the true opinions of the people and damages the role of a free, true press in our society

3. Also fake news distract attention from the more important work of democracy and the right pursuit of the good, welfare, and safety of the largest number of people. A fake news item will often redirect our focus from serious matters and use our own human emotions to confuse us and creates tension where there should be attention.

Finally, fake news many times preys on our lower human instincts. It rubbishes our sense of decency and civility reducing us to very base instincts. Fake news preys for instance on the tensions in our diversity: especially ethnic and religious. It promotes hatred and negative stereotypes. Fake news kills our desire and aspirations to rise above small-mindedness because itโ€™s engages in merchandising our past failures as a nation and as a people. Tell me why should decent people of goodwill fall for this kind of low-life?I have restrained for now to cite any particular example from my experience serving the Nigerian people this past years so that this is not misconstrued in any way.

We must work hard, especially all communication professionals to kill fake news and agree to a template to fight it. As things stand today there is no such framework at all.To conclude, I have compiled 7 tips already listed by several sources and some of my own ideas on how to identify fake news, thus:

1. Check the source: For Nigerian news, it’s important to verify the source of the news before sharing it. Check if the source is from reputable Nigerian media outlets. You can determine that for instance by looking at other news on the site. On WhatsApp never believe any news that donโ€™t carry a link. You will see Breaking or Breaking News, donโ€™t pay attention except it has a legitimate link.

2. Look at the headline: Be wary of sensational headlines that exaggerate the story. Some news outlets are known to use provocative headlines to grab readers’ attention. While it is ok to be reasonably sensational be very cautious of headlines that seem too good to be true positively or negatively.

3. Check the date: Fake news items are sometimes churned out years after the actual event. Ensure that you verify the date of publication or event to be sure it is up-to-date. In relating with my support team while heading up the media team of immediate past VP, Prof. Osinbajo, SAN, we developed the term -RE-TRENDS or RE-TRENDING. This is when perhaps your opponents or those who have a cause to damage your reputation would go and revive a fake news, or baseless news report and rehash it as if itโ€™s news. They donโ€™t date it for obvious reasons creating the impression that it is new and recent.

This is why any item that does not carry a date should be completely ignored. You wonโ€™t miss a thing. If the story is true, you wonโ€™t miss it.

4. Look for supporting evidence:Fake news creators often don’t provide supporting evidence for their claims. Verify facts contained within the story before sharing. They will often rely on the empirical fact that must people only read headlines.

5. Read beyond the headline: Fake news publishers in Nigeria tend to include deceptive introductory paragraphs that are contrary to the information contained in the article. Make sure you read beyond the headlines to verify what’s reported.

6. Check other sources: Cross-check the story with other credible media outlets, or fact-checking websites. If the story or particular headline is only being reported by one source, it’s advisable to second-guess its authenticity.

7. Use fact-checking tools:* There are several fact-checking sites. Always make sure you check with a reliable fact-checking source before sharing any news item.

8. Finally depend only on trusted sources for your daily news. And there are many around. In the last two weeks vacating in the USA, where I had lived 17 straight years before 2015, I realized that the incidence of fake news, especially on WhatsApp is very low. I intend to further under-study that. But it is clear that people here depend more on credible sources of information.

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