The Impact Of Fake News On The Society

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

The Impact Of Fake News On The Society


Abstract


This research presents the results of the impact of fake news on Nigeria Society, a case study of Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos state. Data were gathered using a self -constructed questionnaire and the result gotten was analyzed using the simple percentage method. The validity and reliability of instrument were ascertained. Data analyzed from the research shows that there is a great deals of fake news in Nigeria, and also fake news influence and impact people negatively, the study however recommends that Online newspapers should adopt the operation model of the conventional newspaper.

Cases of the circulation of fake news are prevalent in the country as it is across the world, but the circulation of false information have not started to have a toll on the perceived credibility of popular online newspapers. Those who because of fake news are cautiously optimistic about the credibility of popular online newspapers were found to be slightly higher than those who have allowed incidence of fake news make them suspect reports on popular online newspapers as not credible. This means that fake news still poses a threat to the perception Nigerians have of reputable online newspapers.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The online platform, Sahara Reporters had dished out a story which was disputed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, stating that “no official of the EFCC was authorized to speak with Sahara reporters on the said story or on any issue affecting the investigation of the Paris Club refund”. Also, the Senate President, who was at the receiving end of the story, disclosed that the publisher of Sahara Reporters is in the habit of creating fiction and quoting faceless sources. Yet, this is not a one-off development. Another major instance of fake news which dominated Nigeria’s media space was the rumoured death of President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after he began a health leave to the United Kingdom on January 19, 2017. So audacious were the masterminds that they cloned Metro newspaper of the UK or Huffington Post of US announcing in the spoofs that President Buhari has died in London. While “Metro” reported the “death” of the Nigerian president, “Huffington Post” alleged that he was caught “committing suicide”. The same picture of Buhari was used on both stories which had the same lines repeated in them. However these contradictions did not stop the spoofs from sending the internet into an overdrive in Nigeria, as the rumored death of Buhari was lapped up by some blogs and the social media. In the face of this, little wonder that Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, in February 2017 asserted that fake news poses more danger to the country than insurgency and militancy. He catalogued some false reports the Information ministry has had to contend with thus: Only recently, we have to refute the fake news that Nigeria today is the most difficult place for Christians to live. There was also the fake report that the armed forces of Nigeria armed the Fulani herdsmen and instigate them to carry out attacks.

All these news are unfounded, fake and has the capacity to set one religion or group against the other. (Premium Times 2017, February 21) Mohammed spoke the same month that the Chocolate City founder, Audu Maikori, was arrested by security operatives for publishing a false report about the violence in the southern part of Kaduna state with the Kaduna State governor, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai stating that “what he posted may have led to killings and we are trying to link the date of the postings to attacks that happened the next day on Fulanis”. (Pulse.ng 2017, March 3) It is in the light of these instances and many like it which show that the practice is assuming a life of its own in Nigeria that this study sets out to find out how the incidence of fake news is detracting from the credibility Nigerians accord popular online newspapers operating in the country. This is bearing in mind the submission by Ekwueme (2008, p. 91) that: Your readers want the facts you heard or observed from your various sources, and not figment of your own imagination. Many people believe media messages to be gospel truth and, of course, some of the readers believe either rightly or wrongly that anything that is not carried in the media is not authentic. Since they have that trust in you, you don’t betray it. If you betray it, you have betrayed yourself and the integrity of your medium.

According to Asemah (2009, p.37), “The media, whether electronic or print often set agenda for the public to follow; they monitor trends and events in our society and raised their agenda based on what they have monitored … Whatever issue the media raised becomes an issue of public concern”. “By electronically reproducing the news to cater to a much larger audience than its newspaper subscriber base, online newspapers should be doing a great service to humankind. After all, they are bringing readers more information than anyone has done in history at a time when the value of information as a commodity is greater than ever” Thiel (1998). Bearing this in mind and the need to sustain that pride of place earlier occupied by the print newspaper in setting the agenda as well as among other roles holding government accountable to the people, the society stands to lose out greatly if popular online newspapers, in the face of disappearing


1.2 Statement of the Problem

Motsaathebe (2011, p.14) posits that “the news media is generally regarded as a credible provider of a realistic view of what happens around the world. In composing news, journalists rely on various sources to verify or lend credibility to the Information they put across”. Kolawole (2017) writes, “Fake news — that art of concocting stories from your bedroom because you have a smart phone with cheap data — is becoming the biggest thing in town. No, it is not new. It was not invented in this generation of social media. We have been living with fake news most of our lives. The SAP riots of 1989, for instance, were sparked off by fake news.” The assertions above point the how fake news affects not just the media but the society as well. With the advent of the new media, the scourge of fake news is becoming more prevalent that its negative impact on popular online newspapers is very evident. As Allcot & Gentzkow (2017, p.7) said, “The declining trust in mainstream media could be both a cause and a consequence of fake news gaining more traction”. If fake news can affect traditional newspapers, then its impact on major online newspapers can only be imagined. The literacy level in the country has not entirely made the difference between social media and popular online newspaper a common knowledge to all. It is still believed in some quarters that there is no difference between a major online news site and Facebook. To this extent, it is feared that whatever negative impression people have of one is extended to the other. Well-known online newspapers are too important to the fabrics of the society to be allowed to be smeared altogether by what users post on social media channels.


1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to find out the impact of fake new on the Nigerian society. Specifically the study intends to;

  1. To find out if the media play a part in dissemination of fake news in Nigeria
  2. To discover how frequent cases of fake news are reported in the country
  3. To know the perception Nigerian have for news report in the country
  4. To know the effect of fake news on target audience

1.4 Research Questions

  1. Does the media play a part in dissemination of fake news in Nigeria
  2. How frequent does cases of fake news are reported in the country
  3. What is the perception of Nigerian for news report in the country
  4. What is the effect of fake news on target audience

1.5 Significance of the Study

From this research, media practitioners would better understand the extent of damage which fake news is doing to their trade. They would get to know why they should rely on credible sources of information rather than embellishing what a user posted on the social media as story for their readers. This study would help readers know the difference between the social media and real media news in order not to misinterpret the information dissemination. This study will also serve as a reference point for other researcher who will embark on the same research topic.


1.6 Scope of the Study

This study will be focusing on bringing to light the impact which fake news have on the perception of students in Yaba College of Technology, Lagos state. It studies the fake news dissemination particularly on how people react to fake news.


1.7 Limitation of the Study

The challenge of finance for the general research work will be a challenge during the course of study. However, it is believed that these constraints will be worked on by making the best use of the available materials and spending more than the necessary time in the research work. Therefore, it is strongly believed that despite this constraint, its effect on this research report will be minimal, thus, making the objective and significance of the study achievable.


1.9 Definition of terms

Impact:

A marked influence or effect on someone or something

Influence:

This refers to the strong ability to affect or manipulate something, in this case perception.

Fake news:

Fake news means “false information deliberately circulated by those who have scant regard for the truth but hope to advance particular (often extreme) political causes and make money out of online traffic. Or it could be false information circulated by journalists who don’t realise it’s false” BBC (2017, March 12).

Social media:

Social media was defined by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p.61) as “a group of Internet-based applications that builds on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”

Perception:

This refers to the way human beings uses any of their senses to think about or come to terms with whatever they are exposed to. Pate & Dauda (2015, p.218) wrote that, “People’s perception wield an enormous influence over their behaviour. If people perceive something in a certain way, even if they are incorrect, in their minds, it is that way, and they often base their behaviour on that perception.”

Online Newspaper:

According to Thiel (1998) “Online news is a commodity created through Web pages (which are certainly more fleeting, both physically and mentally, than print news). Web pages, then, exist only at the point of consumption”. Ufuophu-Biri (2013, p.177) stated that online newspaper journalism is of two types. They include: solely online newspaper which does not print hard copies, and the conventional newspaper which combines traditional hard copy publishing with online publishing.


Chapter Five


Summary Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

The major focus of this paper is on impact of Fake news on the society.

The study was divided into five chapters. In the first chapter, we stated the problem of the study, its objectives and formulated for testing research hypotheses. In the second chapter, we reviewed literatures related to the topic. In the third chapter, we described the methodology employed or adopted to arrive at the study’s findings. In the fourth chapter Quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis were used to present and analyze data gathered from the study.


5.2 Conclusion

Cases of the circulation of fake news are prevalent in the country as it is across the world, but the circulation of false information have not started to have a toll on the perceived credibility of popular online newspapers. Those who because of fake news are cautiously optimistic about the credibility of popular online newspapers were found to be slightly higher than those who have allowed incidence of fake news make them suspect reports on popular online newspapers as not credible. This means that fake news still poses a threat to the perception Nigerians have of reputable online newspapers. As the Uses and Gratification and the Selectivity theories go, those who have the notion that popular online newspapers are purveyors of fake news may switch to other mediums of mass communication or take information passed by online newspapers with a pinch of salt. When this becomes the case, the influence of popular online newspapers with regards to the role of the press to the society is whittled down and hampered, essentially because of the scourge of fake news.


5.3 Recommendations

Drawing from the knowledge and finding garnered in the course of this study, the under-listed ideas can be proffered as recommendations through which fake news and its impact on the public perception of online newspapers in Nigeria can be tackled:

  1. Online newspapers should adopt the operation model of the conventional newspaper. Stories should written to perfection, subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the head of the reporter’s desk, checked again by the news editor and his team with a strong re-write desk ensuring that the story conforms to a house style; and then a final check by the editor of the paper. (Daniel, This Day April 22, 2017)
  2. Online newspapers should ensure they employ only qualified and well-trained journalists who can validate and can defend whatever story that has their by-line.
  3. Granted that running a newspaper requires a huge capital outlay which makes publishers are reporters susceptible to moneybags looking for where to plant stories that would further their interest, online newspaper practitioners should rather rely on international donor agencies which support independent media organisations which funds to enable them better hold the government accountable to the people.
  4. Online newspapers must not base their reports on rumours spread on the social media. Whenever they want to report what was post on the social media by newsmakers, they should ensure that the posting is actually on the verified social media account of the prominent personality in question.
  5. The government, the Nigeria Union of Journalists and other associations in the media industry should find a means of streamlining the process of setting up online newspapers so as to avert the springing up mushroom news sites which publish false stories that dent the perception of the online newspaper.
  6. When a story published by an online newspaper is found to be false, such stories should promptly be pulled down with the same online site publishing a corrigendum and an apology signed by its editor to the readers.

The Impact Of Fake News On The Society


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