Two years ago, fake news was not a term many people used, but it is now a term that is sweeping across newsrooms. Apart from being one of Donald Trump’s favorite terms, it was also named 2017’s word of the year.
The term which first originated in 2016, is causing lots of mishaps on Facebook like it did during the U.S presidential election. Cameroon has also fallen prey to its spread partly because of the upcoming presidential elections and the Anglophone crisis. It is now common place to find Facebook users sharing information that has not been verified but trending on most accounts.
This advances reasons as to why Aida Ndiaye, Facebook’s Public Policy Associate in Africa was at ActivSpaces, Douala on August 11, 2018. Her aim was nothing less but to sensitize Facebook users during a workshop themed, “Fake News and Misinformation in Cameroon.”
According to Aida, the biggest factor behind the success of fake news stories is their high level of social engagement. Besides, the difficulty in censoring fake news, gives room for users to share whatever they want. However, Facebook doesn’t aspire to censor information on its platform. The reason is simple: Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook for people to express themselves.
Though it is usual for Facebook to send Ambassadors to come closer to their users in different parts of the world, Aida’s main mission to Cameroon was to sensitize Facebook users on how to detect, deal with and the effect fake news has on Facebook and its users.
Fake news causes panic, harassment, intimidation, racism, damages reputation and spoils international relations. Hence, there is need for platforms like Facebook to feel concerned when it’s now used as a medium for election meddling.
Tips for spotting fake news
According to Rigobert Kenmogne, Executive Secretary of Digital Access Association fighting violence and fake news and misinformation on Facebook, there are more than ten ways to identify fake news.
- Fake news has catchy (shocking) headlines, all written in caps with exclamation signs.
- Have look-alike URL since false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making changes in their URLs.
- They always come from strange sites. Investigate the source. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check the ‘’about’’ section to learn more.
- Watch out for unusual formatting. Most false news sites have misspellings and awkward layouts.
- Manipulated photos. Most of the photos are copied form other sites.
- Inspect the date. It may have altered dates
- Check author’s sources. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false story. Fake news always carry anonymous sources.
- Confirm from other reporters.
- Is the story a joke? You have to be careful. Some jokes are written in the form of fake news.
- Think critically about the story. Some are intentionally fake.
Facebook is trying hard to combat this issue of fake news on its platform. Like Kenmogne said, sensitization is the first step and other measures will certainly have to follow. Scientific American has also outlined some of the efforts made by Facebook to rid itself of fake news.
Fake news has adverse effects on humanity. So, Facebook encourages everyone to join in the fight against it to avoid the havoc it comes with. If everyone can identify fake news and know what to share and what not to share, then the war against fake news may finally be moving towards a positive end.
Fake news is made-up stuff masterly manipulated to look like credible journalism reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions.
When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004, his goal was to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with.
According to dreamgrow.com, Facebook is the most popular social networking site with two billion, two hundred and thirty million (2,230,000,000) users as of their updates on August 2, 2018.