Potential Response To The Treat Of ‘Fake News’ In A Digitalized Media Environment

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Potential Response To The Treat Of ‘Fake News’ In A Digitalized Media Environment


The study examines the study of potential response to the treat of ‘fake news’ in a digitalized media environment. The study based its scope on Delta State University. The study was anchored on the Use and Gratification theory of mass communication. The study adopted the descriptive survey design in data collection and questionnaire was administered to one hundred and sixty-three respondents who formed that sample size. The technique used to arrive at one hundred and sixty respondents was the conveniently sampling technique. The study concluded that students think that fake news is been posted by irresponsibly people as students assumed that social media increased the rate of fake news and they are not happy with the trend of things and it also indicated that student think that fake news on social media is the work of blackmailers as they believed that every information from social media is fake and they will never believe information from social media. The study recommended that students knew about fake news but they do not realized it on time as they consume that fake news and share to others. Therefore, it is important for NGOs and media organizations to start campaign against fake news on social media to discourage posters and increase the knowledge of young adults about the dynamics of fake news and students and young adult should always verify the source and the content of information received on social media to help them discover whether they are fake news or relating to fake news.

Table of Content

  • Title Page
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Table of Content
  • List of Tables
  • Abstract

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background of the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Objective of the Study
  • 1.4 Research Questions
  • 1.5 Research Hypothesis
  • 1.6 Significance of the Study
  • 1.7 Scope of the Study
  • 1.8 Limitation of the Study
  • 1.9 Definition of Terms
  • 1.10 Organisations of the Study

Chapter Two:

Review of Literature

  • 2.1 Conceptual Framework
  • 2.2 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.3 Empirical Review

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Population of the Study
  • 3.3 Sample Size Determination
  • 3.4 Sample Size Selection Technique and Procedure
  • 3.5 Research Instrument and Administration
  • 3.6 Method of Data Collection
  • 3.7 Method of Data Analysis
  • 3.8 Validity of the Study
  • 3.9 Reliability of the Study
  • 3.10 Ethical Consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Presentation and Analysis

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Analysis of Data
  • 4.3 Answering Research Questions
  • 4.4 Test of Hypotheses

Chapter Five:

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References

Chpater One


1.1 Background to the Study

Fake news means “false information deliberately circulated by those who have scant regard for the truth but hope to advance particular (often extreme0 political causes and make money out of online traffic. Or it could be false information circulated by journalists who do not realize its false” BBC (2017, March 12).

Claire Wardle (2017) has come up with seven types of mis – and disinformation in an attempt to distinguish the different types of problematic content that exist within the current news media ecosystem. This categorization includes: false connection, false content, manipulated content, satire or parody, misleading content, imposter content and fabricated content. The type of problematic content used depends on the creator and their motivation. While heuristics like these are helpful, the more recent instantiation of fake news not only raises questions about the content, but also the way in which digital texts are disseminated through digital platforms. Through social media platforms, digital texts become a conduit for relational work between users. These relations affect the interpretive processes of individuals, positioning them to engage with the news article or headline in particular ways.

Contemporary discourse, particularly media coverage, seems to define fake news as viral posts based on fake accounts made to look like news reports. Noting that articles that are intentionally and verifiably false and could mislead readers, are defined as fake news (Allcott and Gentzkow (2017).

Moreover, fake news has emerged against a backdrop of ongoing societal changes, such as an increasing distrust of public institutions and news media (Nicolaou & Giles, 2017) as well as the decline in professional news journalists (Clark & Marchi, 2017) necessitated by the emergence of the participatory web (Jenkins, 2006). User generated content has become an increasingly important part of digital culture of fake news(Grossman, 2006; Mitchem, 2008). This has brought significant changes to the news media industry. Specifically, the ways in which news is reported and shared across populations are expanded through connective media platforms, which has had a positive influence on engaging young people with news and current affairs (Greenhow & Reifman, 2009).

Fake news is a worldwide phenomenon. For example, countries like US and other developed nations have highlighted the incidence of fake news. As Allcott and Gentzkow point out in their research about the spread of fake news during the US presidential elections, fake news is not a new phenomenon and it has a long history before the elections (2017). One historical example of fake news is “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835, in which the New York Sun published a series of articles about the discovery of life on the moon. The discovery was falsely attributed by the newspaper to Sir John Herschel, one of the most famous astronomers of that time. The newspaper’s circulation increased dramatically due to the fake story and after a while, it was discovered that the story was nothing more than a hoax.

A more recent example of fake news is the 2006 “Flemish secession Hoax” in which a Belgian public television station reported that the Flemish parliament had declared independence from Belgium, a report that a large number of viewers misunderstood as true (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). It is worth mentioning the fact that the report was produced as a hoax and in order to make it more credible, interviews with prominent Belgian politicians-some of whom had been informed about the hoax were conducted. However, the report was misunderstood as true and was responsible for a long public discussion and elevated concerns around the issue. The 2016 presidential elections in the United States, a democratic exercise was also marked by loads of misinformation and false news (Albright, 2016).

Another example of fake news in Nigeria was the rumour that President Buhari closed down Aso Rock Villa Church. At the beginning of September 2015, mass media was filled with reports that President Buhari has allegedly ordered the closure and relocation of the Aso Rock Villa Church. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo allegedly built the villa chapel too close to the residence to enjoy worship from the comfort of his bedroom. Thus, President Buhari decided to relocate or even close the Church as it does not apply to his religion. Nevertheless, Femi
Adesina, the President’s special adviser on media and publicity, denied the story, saying that the alleged closed church is still open and functioning. Adesina also tweeted photos from service held on Sunday September 6, 2015. An example of Fake News is 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 rumoured 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 content 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.ng2017, 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 (2008:91) 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.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Fake news has been a serious issue in American and international society lately. It’s a major problem in politics, media, national security and it affects our view of the world and our discussions with other people. As we prepare for new elections, assess our reliance on social media, or have daily conversations with friends and colleagues, concerns that fake news affects society are important. Its not just an American problem. Fake news has led to violence in India and Myanmar. It played a part in the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote and is expected to interfere in upcoming elections in many countries.

On August 13th, 1678, King Charles II was informed of an elaborate Catholic conspiracy to take his life. A manuscript, discovered just a few days prior, named nearly 100 English Jesuits as part of a plot to reinstate Catholic power in protestant, England. The King found the whole thing absurd and wanted it kept quiet to avoid mass panic. Word, however, got out, prompting an investigation that led the Magistrate to the fervently anti-Catholic Titus Oates. Oates’s impeccable memory, confidence and intelligence persuaded the King that the plot was real. Oates claimed to have infiltrated secret Catholic meetings and learned of their plans. He made numerous allegations and knew about the personal lives and positions of various influential Catholics. Fury gripped the English public. Drastic anti-Catholic measures were taken to protect the King’s life. The exclusion Bill excluded the king’s Roman Catholic brother, John, from the line of succession. The Jesuits were persecuted with nine executed and another twelve dying in prison.

The most shocking feature of the entire “Popish plot” was that it was totally fictitious. Titus Oates had fabricated the entire manuscript along with a supposedly insane clergy-man, Israel Tonge, intending to spur hysteria that would do lasting damage to English Catholicism. Fake stories have garnered widespread attention throughout history, though only a few were as impactful as the popish plot. Similar libelous persecutions of Jews occurred across Europe in the late 19th century in the Dreyfus, Beilis and Hilsner affairs; all fake and all successful in stoking hysterical public anger. Some instances of fake news, such as the press’s popularization of batmen on the moon, can be innocuous but others have held dire implications for whole nations. The sensationalist “Yellow Journalism” pioneered by Pulitzer and Hearst has often been cited as a cause of the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The perceived threat posed by fake news to the successful conduct of the 2019 elections in Nigeria has come to the fore. A report describing Nigeria as “the capital of fake news” also noted that the issue is now Africa’s growing digital security threat. “The problem has become so acute that the government of Africa’s most populous nation has warned that misinformation could be the biggest threat to credible elections”. Wall street journal continuing, the medium reported that the federal government has said that sharing of fake images along with incorrect and inflammatory commentary have led to deaths in certain parts of the country. “Fake news has upended elections across the globe but found particularly fertile ground in Africa, where 54 countries, more than 1,000 languages and chronically underfunded local media, complicate efforts to combat the spread of rumours and misinformation. Wall street journal said. The medium particularly mentioned Facebook and its WhatsApp messaging platform as two platforms on which fake news thrives, exacerbating already “tense ethnic, political, religious and social divides”.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of the study is to find out the potential response to the treat of ‘fake news’ in a digitalized media environment. Specifically; the study aim to:

  1. To find out what students of Delta State University Abraka thinks of fake news in social media.
  2. To determine the source of fake news in social media.
  3. To determine the frequency of fake news in social media.
  4. To ascertain which platform of social media are fake news prominent.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions have been put forward to guide the study. They are:

  1. What do students of Delta State University Abraka think of fake news in social media?
  2. What is the source of fake news in social media?
  3. What is the frequency of fake news in social media?
  4. What platform of social media are fake news prominent?
  5. What is the best way to curtail fake news in the digitized media environment?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The study will validated the statements below;

  • H0: Fake news are not prevalent in social media.
  • H0: Fake news are prevalent in social media.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This study is expected to benefit the Delta State University Abraka, where this study is done as it will help students, teaching staff and non-teaching staff to know the relationship between fake news and social media. This study is also expected to benefit social media users with a view to understand the dangers of fake news and also to know the relationship between fake news and social media.

This study is expected to provide useful data and empirical analysis to other researchers and academics, to have firm knowledge of fake news and its originality in social media arena.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The scope of the study is fake news in social media and the study location is the Delta State University Abraka. The Delta State University has three campuses with the main campus located at Abraka, Delta State and the other two at Anwai, Asaba and Oleh. Delta State University Abraka has six faculties namely: Faculty of Education, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Sciences, Facility of Social Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, Basic Medical Sciences and 168 Departments.

The Delta State University Abraka, is chosen as the study location of this research because it is where the research is being carried out. Demographically, the scope of the study is restricted to students both male and female between the ages of 18 to 40 years in higher education.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

Like in every human endeavour, the researcher encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size. More so, the researcher simultaneously engaged in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

Moreover, the case study method utilized in the study posed some challenges to the investigator including the possibility of biases and poor judgment of issues. However, the investigator relied on respect for the general principles of procedures, justice, fairness, objectivity in observation and recording, and weighing of evidence to overcome the challenges.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Fake News:

This is any content the is presented as information value with deceptive intentions to create unnecessary readership.

Social Media:

This is the platform for social interaction between people using the social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instgaram e,.t.c. Social media is becoming very popular for content generation.

Online Contents:

This is any information that comes inform of text, picture and video distributed on the internet to reach large number of people.

Online Publication:

Online publication is a type of information that a verified news media broadcast to reach larger number of online users.

1.10 Organization of the Study

The study is categorized into five chapters. The first chapter presents the background of the study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, research questions and hypothesis, the significance of the study, scope/limitations of the study, and definition of terms. The chapter two covers the review of literature with emphasis on conceptual framework, theoretical framework, and empirical review. Likewise, the chapter three which is the research methodology, specifically covers the research design, population of the study, sample size determination, sample size, abnd selection technique and procedure, research instrument and administration, method of data collection, method of data analysis, validity and reliability of the study, and ethical consideration. The second to last chapter being the chapter four presents the data presentation and analysis, while the last chapter(chapter five) contains the summary, conclusion and recommendation.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations:

5.1 Introduction

This chapter summarizes the findings into the potential response to the treat of ‘fake news’ in a digitalized media environment. The chapter consists of summary of the study, conclusions, and recommendations.

5.2 Summary of the Study

In this study, our focus was to examine the potential response to the treat of ‘fake news’ in a digitalized media environment. The study specifically was aimed at find out what students of Delta State University Abraka thinks of fake news in social media, determine the source of fake news in social media, determine the frequency of fake news in social media, and ascertain which platform of social media are fake news prominent.

The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 141 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondents are students of Delta State University, Abraka.

5.3 Conclusions

Based on the findings of this study, the researcher made the following conclusion.

  1. Students of Delta State University Abraka think that social media increases the rate of fake news, that information from social media is reliable to believe, that irresponsibly people are responsible for fake news, and fake news on social media is the work of blackmailers.
  2. The source of fake news in social media include; anonymous users, blackmailers, bloggers, and unverified users.
  3. The frequency of fake news in social media is high.
  4. The platforms of social media in which fake news are prominent are Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube.

5.4 Recommendations

Based on the findings of the study, the following recommendations are proffered.

  1. Students knew about fake news but they do not realized it on time as they consume that fake news and share to others.
  2. It is important for NGOs and media organizations to start campaign against fake news on social media to discourage posters and increase the knowledge of young adults about the dynamics of fake news and students
  3. Young adult should always verify the source and the content of information received on social media to help them discover whether they are fake news or relating to fake news.

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