Can We Control Spread of Fake News?
This article was first published on Decent Conversations Blog
In the digital age we have had to battle with so many challenges and one that remains as challenging as wildfire is fake news. Fake news can be viewed as news articles, stories or information that has been published without verifiable information. This is mostly done with the intent of misleading others or gaining unfair advantage especially in the issues of politics or business. Fake news come in different aspects such as unverified news stories, propaganda, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, unverifiable claims, fake job adverts and pseudo social media accounts. [Source: BAKE]
Fake news continue to be a challenging issue in Kenya and the globe at large due to the nature of its impact. The spread of fake news has resulted in; the gain of undue political influence, unfair competitive business advantage, exploitation of those seeking opportunities, trigger of insecurity issues and damage of reputation especially for prominent personalities in society.
This is not a new concept in society but what makes it a major complex issue is the fact that it’s mostly propagated through the social media platforms. The influence and power of social media is greatly unmatched in this digital and information age. Everyone is looking for information and the first point of contact is the Internet especial social media which is often through mobile phones. To top that, there is the dynamic that, fake news is majorly spread by pseudo accounts that can’t be traced to specific individuals.
People are hungry for information and the Kenyan constitutions provides for the right to access information. On the flip side, there is the right of expression where individuals have the freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas; among others. However, this right is limited in the aspect that; right to freedom of expression does not extend to-
(a) propaganda for war;
(b) incitement to violence;
(c) hate speech; or
(d) advocacy of hatred that—
(i) constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm; or
(ii) is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated in Article 27 (4).
In addition, the right to information provides that; every person has the right to the correction or deletion of untrue or misleading information that affects the person. [Source: KLRC]
It is quite clear that the Kenyan Law promotes the right of every individual to access the right information and not to be manipulated by available information. However, this does not deny the fact that citizens have continued to be manipulated and impacted by fake news due to its dynamic nature.
Can we control spread of fake news?
It is possible to curb the spread of fake news and it all begins with Personal responsibility. Every individual should take the initiative of cross checking every information received either as news items or job adverts. This can be done by checking the origin of the information, other information sources and credible websites. Personal responsibility also comes with ensuring that, one does not knowingly share questionable news to others.
Secondly, the government, recruiting agencies, telecom and media stakeholders can create awareness on what is fake news, how to identify, impact and easy ways of handling the menace. These entities are the greatly affected by fake news and their involvement might just awaken citizens to take on fake news as a menace that destroys the whole society.
There is also need to develop a mechanism to flag and report fake news. At times fake news appears so compelling and might be difficult to tell at a glance whether it is fake or not. Systems that help flag and report fake news will help citizens identify such news easily. Such systems can be through apps, websites or even USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) services and can be established by government or different stakeholders in the private sector affected by fake news.
Technology keeps evolving and providing solutions to emerging issues. Consequently, to curb fake news, different stakeholders can adopt the use of Blockchain technology. This technology can be applied by the government and media outlets to establish information database or sources that can verify any news or information circulating on social media.
In a nutshell, I would say that, fake news may present a dynamic challenge. Curbing the spread of such, will not infringe on the freedom of expression.