According to by Wikipedia fake news is as “a type of hoax or deliberate spread of false information, be it via the traditional print or broadcasting news media or via Internet-based social media. To qualify as fake news, a story has to be written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically. As such, intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news is different from obviously satirical or parody articles or papers.
Fake news is active in many more countries than Nigeria. In the United States it played a major role in the victory of Donald Trump. According to reports Pro-Donald Trump fake news dominated Facebook in the months leading up to the presidential election in early November. An analysis by Buzzfeed found that fake news stories related to the election did better on Facebook than real news stories from August through Election Day.
Fake news is business
Fake news is business. Laurie Penny an author and contributing editor to the New Statesman notes: “Even those of us who create and consume news can forget that fake news is a commodity – a commodity with a business model behind it, subsidised by advertising.
Fake news generates clicks because people click on things that they want to believe. Clicks lead to ad revenue, and ad revenue is currently all that is sustaining a media industry in crisis. Journalism is casting about for new funding models as if for handholds on a sheer cliff.”
In some countries, fake news stories are meant to blackmail their targets for money or they are sponsored by some rich men for character assassination.
The demand for fake news
The business model of fake news thrives on the demand for it. The consumer of fake news is a major cause of the proliferation. The following reasons have been identified by psychologists and media experts.
Gullibility: Many poorly educated people take what they read in newspapers and online media as gospel truth they are proud to spread. Studies show that online news readers don’t seem to really care about the importance of journalistic sourcing – what people in the academia call “professional gate-keeping.” This attitude, together with the difficulty of discerning online news sources, is at the root of why so many believe fake news.
Loss of humanity: Fake news thrives because in a world that is increasingly losing its humanity, people want false news about others to be true. In the case of President Buhari, there were of course some people who lost out in many ways with his emergence as President, and people who wish to be saved from the ant-corruption war.
Implicit Bias: Psychologists explain that there is the tendency for humans to group people into categories. We are inclined to trust people we consider members of our own group more than those of a different group. The word implicit indicates that it is a bias that influences us without our knowing it.
Confirmation Bias: Experts describe confirmation bias as our tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already think or want to be true; and actually turn a blind eye to facts that contradict our beliefs.
Lethal Combination: According to Dr David Braucher when implicit biases and confirmation biases work together, their potential to lead us astray increases exponentially. “As our implicit bias leads us to trust and view more positively those of our own group, we become more insulated, only hearing from people of our own group. As those of our own group share our beliefs, they share “facts” that confirm our beliefs. It is a feedback loop, and we end up living in a bubble,” he explains.
Lack of critical thinking: Forbes’ contributor Jordan Shapiro suggests that the real problem is not falsehoods or inaccuracies, but rather that everything about the popular landscape of digital media currently encourages us to see the world the way we want it to be. But many people lack the right education for critical thinking.
Founder of the World Wide Web laments
Fake news even got the founder of the World Wide Web complaining. Sir Tim Berners-Lee had expressed concern over three challenges faced by the web including fake news.
Mr. Berners-Lee listed the issues as loss of control of privacy, misinformation or fake news and transparency in political advertising online.
The inventor, who noted that the web had lived up to its vision in spite of the recurring battle to keep the web open, said that the challenges needed to be addressed quickly.
“Over the past 12 months, I have become increasingly worried about three new trends. I believe we must tackle them, in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity,” he had said.