Fact-Checking Coronavirus: A campaign to spread facts and not panic, By Ekene Odigwe




NNPC

Nedu’s day begins with a stretch of hands towards his mobile device, then a quick flip to his Instagram responds to new messages, checks out new followers and then making a quick post about his modelling career. The next stop is his WhatsApp, more of his messages here is to copy and share of a call, career news and sorts. Most times he does not bother to check the details of the messages or read to understand; therefore he reacts to his comments and posts not because they align with his philosophy but because of the person that made the post. Nedu’s guide to social media is the typical guide of a millennial and a digital being around the world. It is proven that humans respond more to a post specifically if the post is coming from someone they admire or whose beliefs they respect than sharing a post because it supports their claim about a particular thing. At a time when social media reaction is the new method of engagement, many have sacrificed professionalism on the altar of popularity.
With Nigeria’s confirmation of the first coronavirus case, it becomes pertinent that the people are reminded to spread facts and not panic built on someone’s political agenda and narrative. As the deadly virus spread from Wuhan, China, to the rest of the world, misinformation tagged along because the advent of social media has created a whole new horizon for the News cycle and News dissemination, this development has made everyone a content creator, news editor and citizen journalist. Consequently, all this has resulted in the easier spread of falsehood and with Nigeria as a multi-diverse, ethnic, religious and political country there is a high possibility of being caught between people’s opinions and fact.
Nigerians need to understand that Fake news is the new biggest buzz word: We see it all over our televisions, it is always motioned on the radio, and it is in the paper and on the Web. It is a word thrown around within the political circle. It is a lifestyle now that if anyone doesn’t agree with a report! The way out is to call it fake news or term it hate speech. There is so much misinformation spread around that audiences no longer know what to believe. The concept of fake news, while often used to demean an unflattering report, is also a legitimate problem. The line between journalism and other content has blurred, making it more important than ever for all writers, regardless of their platform, to verify their facts.
In two (4) months Nigerians have fought against Hate speech bill which if passed into law will allow the government hang to death anyone whose speech resulted in the death of another, what this means is that that lots of people will die because now opponents and allies alike will find a way to tie death to any speech they don’t like and once there’s death, whoever that made the speech will also have to die. Two wrongs have never made anything right. This will also muzzle the press and control how people say things. The media will lose its essence.
Then there’s social media bill, which will regulate the online space if it becomes a law. These two bills “Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill and Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill” are both according to the government geared towards checkmating fake news and advocate for fact-checking.
For the past two months, Nigeria has battled different narratives of regional security. These narratives were shaped by the contents found on social media. Fake pictures circulating on the virtual space which some users smartly planted to depict inter-communal violence are inflaming already high tensions in Nigeria. Fake news has been a big problem for some time now, and there are many people like Nedu who just react to a post because it was posted by a friend or that will just read a post of Facebook and believe it to be the truth, without finding an original or secondary source.
The most disturbing is the circulation of a story titled” breaking news, with a picture of a man called Adewale Isaac Olorogun, who in the story was the man who drove the white man to a company in Ogun state, it went further to state that he was diagnosed with coronavirus and then ran away from hospital. Threatening to spread the virus all over Nigeria by taking public transport to different states if his family is not paid 100million naira.”
The writer’s Fact check finding indicates that the said picture being circulated online does not correspond with the name and doesn’t even align with the story, if it is true, unfortunately. It’s not. Ekene’s fact-checking exercise also proves that the said picture was first used online on December 15, 2018, when Buzz fed published a story of how one man was sold into Libya for slavery, after that, that same picture has been used on most social media hook up sites like Badoo and others. It has even been reposted 6 times online and used for different stories by different publishers.
In the words of Varley, Fact-checking is incredibly important in any industry, not just marketing, Whether you’re promoting a product/service, writing an opinion piece or reporting on a news story, it’s vital to get all the facts right. A single mistake, no matter how small, could result in anything from losing your customers’ trust to becoming the target of an internet backlash or even legal repercussions.
More fake news stories will likely surface about regional security and this conversation of not properly moderated would result in a crisis. Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have revealed plans to fight the global problem of fake news, but here are five ways you can stop the spread of misinformation:
Check the source: Fake social media accounts often try to appear as if they are from legitimate news sites, so check that every account you share information from is genuine. Verified accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have a blue tick.
Look at multiple sources: Although this isn’t foolproof, it’s nonetheless worth checking multiple reputable news sources when trying to verify if what you’re seeing is real. Ask yourself: Are trusted news outlets also reporting this information?
Verification tools: There are dozens of tools online that can help determine the authenticity of a picture or a video. Google, Bing and Tin Eye all offer a reverse image search, which can tell you where images have been used before. Video verification is trickier, but tools like InVid allow you to select the video from Facebook and YouTube to see if or where these videos have been used before.
The old and still relevant way is to ask an expert
Check metadata: If you have an original video or picture, you can check the metadata which will give you a wealth of information, including where and when the image or video was taken plus the device make and model. Unfortunately, when images and videos are uploaded to social media platforms their metadata is stripped out.
Think before you post: It sounds obvious, but being careful not to add to the problem of fake news. Before you post, ask yourself if you’re sure the information you’re about to post is real.


@EkeneOdigwe, a multimedia journalist, campaign development consultant and a digital media expert on Radio Nigeria Network Service, Coalcity FM Enugu who also works with youth organisations to champion other societal issues have a track record in development journalism with major impacts in fact-checking, female genital mutilation and girl child advocacy.




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