Opinion: Facebook and Fake News

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Facebook is a very progressive platform for engagement and mobilisation. But in the hands of mindless people, it can be extremely dangerous. A grooming ground for fake news and hate speech.
Recently, a gruesome photo of two pupils who were hacked to death was going viral on Facebook attributed to the Fulani herdsmen violence in Benue. People were writing long epistles condemning the President and the government. It was later discovered that it was a mad man who was responsible and it didn’t even happen in Benue.
Few days ago, was one with an alleged picture of the returned Dapchi girls with Luggages with captions to justify the “stage-play” theory asking if the alleged kidnapped girls were gifted with bags full of easter gifts. A simple image search revealed that picture has been on circulation since February and it’s a picture of Dapchi students with their packed bags leaving the school and not the returned Dapchi girls as widely circulated on social media.
Then the nonexistent Sgt David Bako conspiracy theory, who allegedly claimed that Buhari has special forces who carried out the Dapchi plan. A nonexistent sergeant. A grown up person, sat down, thought of it, typed it and posted it. As if that was not bad enough, educated adults, graduates, and intellectuals alike were busy sharing and commenting. How can this be? Even when we have a limitless access to information available to us?
People who are busy posting gruesome photos of incidents unrelated to the Fulani Herdsmen are mindless and very irresponsible. This thing of going on the internet looking for photos from 2years ago or 6years, some from an entirely different country or scenarios etc, then posting them with captions claiming that’s the representation of the violence, must be condemned with the contempt it deserves. It is extremely reckless and does nothing but add fuel to an already dangerously raging fire in Nigeria.
I don’t know if people keep sharing these posts, photos and videos genuinely because they don’t know that they’re inauthentic, or if we have in our midst adults who are sitting behind computers excitedly architecting violence for whatever reason. But what I know is that this is irresponsible. This irresponsible and mischievous use of media is dangerous and have history as a reference point.
We all know that the genocide in Rwanda was fueled by fake reports on radio. This led to the massacre of almost a million innocent people! Can we please realise that social media is not just a play thing. This is a serious issue we are dealing with here. We are talking here about people’s lives. People are dying and being killed and we must fight that with every ounce of energy we have. Inciting more violence by being deliberately dishonest is no different a crime to that we accuse Boko Haram and Herdsmen of.
Please, we have data to post on Facebook and social media all day but why don’t we seem to always have data to confirm news source before posting, sharing, commenting and therefore spreading fake news? A simple google search will suffice. You can even search for images, an image search for any picture you doubt it’s authenticity. There is no excuse now.
We must stop these barbaric killings. And in the process we must not create fertile ground for more killings which will be informed by our own collective recklessness!
– Isa Eneye Mubarak
Tweets @IsaMubii

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