Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday decried peddling of fake news, warning that the act posed great danger for the society, aside causing physical harm.
He expressed regret that a lot of misinformation from the social media also find their ways into the traditional media, stressing the need to carry out investigations, cross check facts and do more interrogations before publication.
At a conference on ‘Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News’ organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) yesterday in Abuja, Osinbajo said: “Practically everyday, I see some news that affect me or affect my work in one way or the other. The mass publication of deliberate falsehood has been with us for ages, manipulating words in a way that will resemble the reality.
“Fake news is now news because of the greater dimension in content or harm that it can do and the scope, especially with the advancement in technology in the past two decades. Aside the damage done to the credibility or integrity of public information, the capacity of fake news to cause alarm and fears has been demonstrated over and over again.”
According to Osinbajo, “One of the worries should be the harm they have done to public information, if nothing is done, nothing will be believed again because as technology improves in its capacity to manipulate, after a while, there will be perfect videos using artificial intelligence and other tools of digital technology. There will be perfect videos of people making speech they never made and events that never happened and it becomes more difficult to distinguish what is true from what is not true.”
The vice president, who cited an instance of the impact of fake news, said: “ I got a call from my wife about three or four weeks ago and she said: Yemi, what are you doing with strippers? And I asked: what do you mean by strippers? She relied: I read a story in a famous blog that said ‘Osinbajo caught with strippers’.
“And there was a photograph of me sitting between two perfectly clothed ladies, but underneath this picture, the same ladies were not wearing much. In fact-checking, I noticed that the photographs with these two ladies at an entertainment event were taken when they were perfectly clothed, but by the time the story was put out, it was as though I had taken a photo with them at the time they were not clothed at all.”
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said peddling of fake news should be treated as a crime. He urged the government to use the laws of libel, slander and identity theft to deal with purveyors of fake news.
Soyinka, who was one of the panelists, said: “Fake news is dangerous, they have killed us so many times.
Imagine waking up and reading a statement attributed to you in a language you never imagined. Those who carry fake news are sick in the head, they are cowards, they lack conviction.
“Some vendors of fake news are actually up for hire, they have a system whereby fake news information can be multiplied within a second for political purposes, and money is usually involved. Many of the vendors approach politicians to say I can help you.”
Soyinka took a swipe on former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying “Someone that was in a position of power for eight years, lectured the nation for eight years, after that, continued year after year to direct the mind of the whole nation in one direction, saying this is Lucifer from hell for eight years in office and several more years out of office, and just one day changed and said, behold your redeemer, which of the two is fake news?”