For reasons best known to them, peddlers of fake news utilise periods of tension to swing into action. Some of these people are known to perform this mean act for personal gains, but a lot have no obvious reasons. Some spread fake news to douse tensions, others do to escalate it. Some bearers of fake news are known while others are ghosts. But no matter the angle it is viewed from, fake news is harmful.
The present public unrest that is eating deep into society is a by-product of fake news. Of course this assertion has been hotly debated at different corners but every party agrees that the tension was escalated by the way unverifiable news flew about that Tuesday night and the following day. It was as if the country was sitting on a keg of powder and waiting to explode at any moment. Immediately they heard that hundreds of youths were shot dead by the government through the Nigeria Army, all hell went lose. People lost it. Reasoning was ditched as emotion took hold of the body. According to a Twitter user, the country was thrown into mass hysteria, hence no one was thinking straight.
Ok, I know that this essay may not be considered objective by you, but you might want to agree with me that many of the “dead” people mentioned by social media influencers, including celebrities, have “resurrected” and come out to discredit the news. You might agree with me that people edited photos, including the one from a drama, and posted them as evidence of the massacre. You must have seen the photo of the bullets allegedly used by the army to commit the crime, which was later pulled down when people started pointing out that the bullets were blanks. But then, the news that actually escalated the tension and led to the riot that shook different parts of the country was the one that mentioned the massive number of youths that were allegedly killed by the Nigeria Army at the Lekki Toll Gate.
Without verifying the information they received, these youths announced that about seventy to a hundred youths were killed and that their bodies were taken away by the army. Since the government has already been accused of unleashing the thugs that harassed the peaceful protesters and for the disturbances in other parts of Lagos and some South-Western states, nobody sat back to ask objective questions concerning the released information. People rose and began to destroy things without considering the consequences. They started with public properties and then veered off to private ones before finally starting uncontrollable vandalism and looting. All these happened because people had access to social media and they used it without reservation.Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not say that the shooting did not happen, or that people did not die. Though the details are still under investigation, I believe it was blown out of proportion that night. All that is happening across the country, including the massive looting, killings and destruction, wouldn’t have happened if the news were released as it occurred. But, there is no need crying over spilled milk.
Another disadvantage of peddling fake news is that it makes the bearers lose their face. It questions the credibility of the person that disseminated it. It puts a question mark on every information passed by the person. For instance, immediately the “dead” people began to “wake-up”, the credibility of every information released by the youths concerning people dying at the Tuesday night incident became questionable. People started asking for evidence. People started scrutinising the videos uploaded in Soro Soke, the digital platform created by the protesters to make their voices heard. It was actually the discovery of so many fake news concerning the Tuesday Lekki Toll Gate incident that divided the voices that would have fought for justice for the victims of that night. This is one of the reasons people should always stick to facts, irrespective of how unattractive they may seem – retaining their integrity.
Fake news never pays. It destroys more than it mends. It is mostly malicious. No person of integrity peddles false information, especially the one that will lead to the destruction of lives and properties. Today, Nigeria is bleeding, not just because of the excesses of her soldiers that didn’t know when to restrain themselves, but also because of peddlers of fake news that awakened the demon of destruction and stealing that had been hibernating in some citizens.