Here’s How To Counter Misinformation And Fake News

October 22, 2020

Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.

Recently, there has been an increasing occurrence of social media accounts broadcasting and spreading fake news.

In one instance, a Twitter user posted a photo of Aisha Yesufu, a prominent activist purportedly showing her relaxing in her living room with her husband while #EndSARS protesters are on the streets. The photo was actually of her 20th wedding anniversary in 2019.

In fact, Aisha Yesufu has been beaten and teargassed on the frontlines of the struggle. She even featured in this iconic photo.

Aisha Yesufu: The Hijab-wearing Revolutionary By Fredrick Nwabufo | Sahara  Reporters

Why though?

Think of it this way. Social media is full of genuine images of victims of the massacre in various parts of Lagos. Some fake accounts or bots start to mix in some fake images and stories. Later on, these images might be used to falsely claim that since some of the images are fake, we can’t believe all of them. Even worse, it might be used as an excuse to clamp down on social media. A cursory search will show that these images are old/fake. You might be wondering why anyone would deliberately spread fake news. Firstly, it might be an attempt to discredit the main movement. 

How?

Recently, a Twitter account released a four-minute-long video falsely claiming that the #EndSARS protest was due to tribal differences and is being used by one tribe to oust the president. This propaganda video has received 250,000 views as at the time of writing this article. Countless people have watched and spread the video through other channels. This might lead to ethnic strife in the country, which is the last thing we need right now.

What can we do?

  1. When you see a sensationalist post (a post that is shocking and likely to rouse anger), be sure to confirm from different sources whether the narrative is real and current. Do not engage, share or retweet a post if you aren’t sure it’s true. News has a way of spreading like wildfire, and sensationalist posts travel even more wildly. By retweeting, you are helping to spread potentially false information that might endanger life.
  2. If you confirm that the post is fake, the next thing you should do is report the post immediately. Twitter, for example, has a wide range of possible reasons to report a post. Report immediately and urge your followers to the same.
  3. Another way to help is by asking the elderly and less tech-savvy such as your parents to verify the information they receive on social media with you, especially WhatsApp broadcast messages. This will help slow the spread of harmful narratives.
  4. Finally, you have to do your part. Create and forward posts containing true, verified facts to counter the spread of false narrative. For example, if you see a message looking to stir up religious or ethnic tensions on a group chat, report the message to the group admin. Next, write a solid rebuttal (with veritable  proof) and share with the group chat. Encourage members to ignore the false narrative and educate them on the truth as well.

Everyone has a part to play in this fight. Do yours.

We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how to unfuck yourself when the Nigerian government moves mad. Check back every weekday for more Zikoko Citizen explainers.

Olufemi Fadahunsi

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