Humans across ages yearn to get information for news, education, and entertainment. In the past, there was zero tolerance for fake news in human societies as socio-economic and political decisions were based on news. Lairs, rumor mongers, and fake news peddlers were viewed with disdain and there were stiff penalties for misinformation.
Unfortunately, the advent of social media and technologies has given people the liberty to share fake news with the speed of light through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and numerous others.
The adverse consequences of fake news have caused huge financial losses to individuals, groups, and organizations. Poisonous ideas and misleading information from fake news have also ignited wars in communities in Nigeria and other countries.
To stem the tide of fake news, we need to demonstrate a good sense of responsibility by consciously avoiding the promotion and consumption of fake news. To be able to do that, we must ride on the shoulders of giants in the field of communications and media strategies.
In a recent article by IGI publisher in the US on the 5th of June, 2020 titled “Protests through the lens of misinformation”, Prof. Thomas Joseph Froehlich from Kent State University, USA advised that it is important for citizens to identify “fake news” to limit the spread of misinformation using the following guidelines:
1. Consider the source and investigate the website, its mission, and contact information.
2. Read beyond the given source, especially if the content is outrageous or intended to inflame.
3. Check the author to see what credentials they have or whether they are “real”.
4. Check the kind of supporting resources that are provided (be sure to follow the links and assess the credibility of supporting resources).
5. Check the date of the story – old news may be outdated and not currently relevant.
6. Determine whether the site is a spoof or satire, such as many stories that appear in The Onion.
7. Check your own biases – no one is unbiased – to make sure that you do not prey on your own biases, liberal or conservative.
8. Ask the experts and consult with a librarian, subject expert, or check a fact-checking site, like Politifact.
Additionally, he recommends the “CRAAP” test as a potent tool for mitigating fake news. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. It is a tested and trusted yardstick for differentiating fake news from genuine news. How do we apply CRAAP?
1. Currency: As a reader and user of news, review the current timeliness of the information. When was it posted? Was the information revised or updated?
2. Relevance: Always review the importance of the information based on your needs. Who is the intended audience? Would you be comfortable using this source in a research paper?
3. Authority: Ensure you review the source of the information. Is the author or publisher creditable and what are their qualifications for writing the story?
4. Accuracy: As a reader, make sure you review the reliability of the information. Is the article or story supported by evidence? Is the information free of bias?
5. Purpose: Finally, a reader must review why the information exists. What is the purpose of the information (i.e. to inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade)? Are there political, ideological, cultural, biases?
Above all, as Muslims, we are accountable for all our actions and inactions. Therefore, live your life following the divine principles.
O you who believe! If a Faasiq (evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done” [al-Hujuraat 49:6].
“Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge of; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allaah” (Surah Nur: 15)
Prophet Muhammad(Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) was emphatic warning his followers thus:
“It is enough lying for a man to speak of everything that he hears.” (Muslim)
“Deliberation is from Allaah and haste is from the Shaytaan.” (Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah).
Brothers and sisters, let us avoid the cut, paste, and share approach on social media platforms. Think twice before sharing! Apply the divine principles and expert guidance in the management of news. We all have roles as creators and users of news. Many people are fond of doing things before thinking. Welcome back to the world of thinking before doing!
Dr. Lukman RAIMI is an Assistant Professor at American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola.
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