A free press is an oil that greases the engine room of democracy but there is a problem it is associated with thereof. The problem with the unregulated press is the issue of false and fake news;
We should therefore be careful when we scream for a free press because the original purport for the advocacy of the free press philosophy is to give citizens the ability and the freedom to express their opinions freely even if such opinion criticizes the government or other institutions without the fear of been persecuted or prosecuted by the recipients of such criticisms but when you begin to share or peddle unverified news or fake news, you are no longer under the canopy and therefore will not be permitted to seek protection under the free press philosophy.
Too much power or unregulated freedom to engage in any activity breeds anarchy, abuse of such freedom and lawlessness; unregulated social media usage and press have shown that although there is a solid advantage for a free press one of which is that it drives democracy; it’s associated disadvantage in exchange is making a mockery of the democracy it is driving. A free press has filled society with so much false and unverified news which has led to the loss of numerous innocent lives and properties.
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For instance, a mischief maker can tweet, post or disseminate false information that there is chaos going on in Onitsha, Anambra state, claiming that the Igbos are killing all the Hausas residing there. Everyone knows what could happen as a result of this news; news of this nature tends to spread like wildfire despite the fact that it is false and unverified. As a ripple effect, it will cause chaos in a place like Sabon Gari in Kano state, Kano indigenes will launch an attack against the Igbos living there in the name of retaliating what the Igbos are doing to their brethren in Onitsha. This in turn will cause a tripartite reaction as the Igbos in Onitsha will then launch an attack against the Hausas living in Onitsha as a retaliatory measure.
Boom; there goes a full-fledged tribal war.
Before chaos like this could be quelled or countered that it was fake news it will be too late as many people must have lost their lives and nobody can pinpoint how it all started.
We have seen incidents of this nature repeatedly happen and innocent citizens have lost their lives over false and unverified news.
Having paid close attention to this issue of false news, I have come to find out that there are three categories of false news peddlers;
The first category of people are those that are professional mischief makers or paid false news peddlers. They are propagandists and they have masterfully learned the craft of using false or fake news to sell some political or cheap propaganda. For instance; the news that was popular some time ago in Nigeria that the president of Nigeria is dead and the person presiding over the affairs of Nigeria as a president is an impostor from Sudan by the name of Jubrin was crafted by professional propagandists and they were able to promote and sell this false news, they ended up making the president of Nigeria less popular as that propaganda casted doubt in the mind of many Nigerians especially the semi-educated ones as to the true person of the president of Nigeria. This fake news and numerous others have been masterfully crafted by professional propagandists and sold to the general public and many believed it.
As a side note; at this juncture permit me to deflect your ego by informing you that so many news you have read or heard from some popular news blogs, radio and television stations or even from government-owned institutions and you believed them to be true were never true, many of such news were crafted to market some propaganda and sell some agendum.
Micheal T. Stevens in his book, “The Art of Psychological Warfare; How To Skillfully Influence People Undetected And How To Mentally
Subdue Your Enemies In Stealth Mode”, did justice to this topic of how governments and institutions peddle fake news to promote or sell propaganda or agenda to the masses.
The second category of fake news peddlers are the social media clout chasers. They knowingly or unknowingly share fake news so as to attract attention and boast the visitors of their pages.
The third category of fake news peddlers are the mentally lazy netizens and gossip mongers. They are too lazy to verify the news. Once it is coming from an account or a person they look up to they will therefore believe its authenticity, recraft the news and repost it or reshare it.
You as a person who does not verify the source or the veracity of news before peddling it is also an enabler of false news and in the same vein guilty of all the harm false news has done to society.
In as much as every protagonist of democracy and free society (including myself), advocate for freedom of speech and expressing one’s opinion but there should be strict regulation to such freedoms; only say or post what you are sure of and can verify; only repost what or peddle news you are sure of the source; if not there should be a strict punishment waiting for you.