Fake news is typically weaponised to manipulate perceptions about candidates or situations and we’re already seeing, in real time, how that’s affecting Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election.
It’s raining fake news
Campaigns for the 2023 elections don’t officially start until September 2022, but the pre-season campaign has been littered with an abundance of misinformation. On August 9th, 2022, Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, raised alarm on Twitter that his name was being used for dirty business in Nigeria.
He was responding to a story that was trending on social media, where he allegedly wrote a letter to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu. In this letter, he supposedly advised Tinubu to consider his supposedly frail health and step down for Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP). The long and short of Akufo-Addo’s reaction was that the story was fake and the reply was:
Obi has also been the subject of endorsements from Hollywood stars — endorsements that have turned out to be fake.
Tinubu has featured in another story involving the circulation of a presidential campaign council list that he said was fake.
There have also been fake social media accounts of prominent people like the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, being used for misinformation.
This account is fake
But who cares about fake news?
Every fake story allowed to spread unchallenged pollutes the public consciousness heading into the elections. Fake news can be harmless mischief, sure, but it can also be malicious and dangerous.
And the tension of this current fake news season is already getting to the presidential candidates themselves.
Tinubu has called out Obi’s supporters to stop spreading lies against him. In an indirect response, Obi accused faceless “opposition” of creating misinformation materials for his benefit so that his campaign can be blamed.
How to deal with fake news
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely eliminate fake news online, whether it’s created unintentionally or intentionally to manipulate. But it doesn’t matter what the intention of creators of fake news is, they need unsuspecting people to carry this message.
It’s important for internet users to step into the gap and ensure they don’t help the spread of fake stories. Because, more than the creators, it’s the people who share fake news that really give such news life. This is why it’s important that everyone is cautious about the kind of stories they share online.
So how can I help to stop the spread of fake news?
There are a few obvious things to look out for to help curb the spread of misinformation:
Question the source
The source of a message can be as important as the message. Before you share a story of any weight, ask yourself if you trust the source to be telling the truth.
If there’s an opportunity to double-check the information from other sources, do that for sure. Trust is fine, but verify first.
Check your bias
Emotionally-charged topics like elections can make us more likely to fall for fake news, especially when it’s something that fits neatly into our biases. Always check to see that your judgement isn’t clouded by your bias.
Think twice before sharing
Before you share that juicy story about a candidate or party, are you sure that you need to? You need to answer this question especially if you can’t find corroborating sources, or feel your bias is in the way of good judgement.
Don’t think you’re too smart to be fooled
It can be ridiculously easy to fall for fake news, no matter how refined you think you are. This is why it’s important that you tick all the boxes on this list. Scrutinise everything carefully. Be curious and don’t stay stuck inside your bubble.
You may not create fake news, but you’re needed as fuel to make it spread to more people.