In February 2017, Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City, was inadvertently caught in the fake news web. Endemic communal clashes had left a trail of murder, arson, and desolation across Southern Kaduna his place of birth.
The clashes escalated towards the end of 2016. It was a continuation of the decades-long problem between the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group and the Christians of Southern Kaduna. At the root of the clashes is who gets to be the dominant ethnic group in the area politically.
In the heat of the crisis in February 2017, Maikori tweeted that five students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, had been killed by Fulani herdsmen. All the students were Christians.
His tweet even had images to back up the story.
Passions were inflamed across the country. Reports have it that some people of Southern Kaduna went on reprisal killings on any Fulani person they came across.
It turned out the tweet was incorrect. Checks at the school showed no evidence of attack by Fulani herdsmen.
He was arrested in Lagos over the tweet and transferred to Abuja. Governor El Rufai of Kaduna had ordered the arrest and insisted criminal charges be brought against Maikori.
Maikori later admitted that what he tweeted was fake news and apologized for his error. But the harm was already done.
Just recently, even the respected Premium Times was caught in the fake news conveyor belt. They had published unverified news about Meyetti Allah over the recent killings in Plateau State.
As reported by Nigeria News, Premium Times later apologized and sacked the reporter, Andrew Ajijah, responsible for the misleading report.
These are just two incidences of fake news in Nigeria. The proliferation of fake news in recent times in Nigeria bears striking resemblance to the months leading up to genocide in Rwanda.
Unfortunately, the government is not committed enough to cracking down on the politicians and other vested interests responsible for spreading fake news. Daily, these people are getting bolder in the face of the government’s ineptitude in dealing with the problem.
It is now left to concerned citizens to separate the real news from the outright falsehoods masquerading as ‘news’.
Ways to spot fake news
As we get closer to next year’s elections, more fake news would become part of our lives. And unfortunately, with social media, it is very easy to spread the news around.
Here are some ways to determine if what you read/view online is fake or real
1. Where is the story coming from?
A few months ago, a news story circulated widely that ex-head of state General Gowon had taken to his Facebook page to advise President Buhari not to use corruption as an excuse for non-performance.
A simple check would have shown that nothing like that was posted by General Gowon on Facebook. It was a fake account. But many people believed that story.
So if the story is from social media, it is important to check that it is the real account and not a fake one. A simple search online would clear that instantly.
Most times, verified social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) accounts of important personalities have a blue tick beside the name.
2. Check other sources for the same story
There are some online news outlets that you should never believe their news no matter how plausible it seems. One typical example is igberetvnews.com.
Nonetheless, no matter the website, make sure other reputable websites are carrying the same story. If no trusted outlet reported the story, the news is likely false.
So always look for collaborative stories from trusted websites.
3. Use online tools to verify images and videos
Images and videos most times accompany fake news to give them a veneer of authenticity. But the images are most times faked or lifted from other places and given a new caption.
The most famous in Nigeria are images of Fulani cattle rearers tending to their cows while brandishing AK 47 rifles. These are as false as false can get.
Those images have nothing to do with Nigeria.
To check the authenticity of an image, you can use Google, Bing and Tin Eye reverse image search feature. The feature can tell you where a particular image had been used before or the original source of the image.
Verifying video can be a tad more difficult.
However, InVid is an open source program that works for Facebook and YouTube videos.
Like reverse image search, it would tell you where the videos were first used.
4. Metadata can reveal a lot
Image or video metadata can reveal a whole heap of information about the image or video.
If you can get hold of the original image, the metadata can reveal information like:
- Where the video or image was taken
- The date image/video was taken
- The device used in making the image/video.
However, don’t be surprised if nothing shows up through metadata. Most images or videos uploaded on social media have their metadata erased to avoid detection.
These four verification steps are enough ammunition for spotting fake news. The first three are even enough to help you sift the real news from the lies.
Help stop the spread of fake news by making sure you don’t share any story of doubtful authenticity. Let’s do our bit to make Nigeria a better country.