Kevin Mabonga: Let us play our individual role in fighting fake news

Kevin Mabonga: Let us play our individual role in fighting fake news

Kevin Mabonga

Kevin Mabonga

By Kevin Mabonga @mabonga1

Denis E. Waitley an American motivational speaker and writer once noted “You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.” Today, the world is faced with a serious challenge that came up as a result of change: Fake news.

A few years ago, it was unforeseeable that fake news would become an important area of discourse not only in the newsroom but also in the public. That, professionals would gather in a room to discuss and research on fake news and its impact.

While some scholars think propaganda and fake news are different, others opine that they are one and the same thing. In an article published by James Carson What is fake news? Its origins and how it grew in 2016 published by the Telegraph in March 2017, the writer notes that the two hold similarities: “both are methods of distorting the truth for emotional persuasion, seeking to drive action. “

The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines fake news as false reports of events, written and read on websites. It further states that fake news creates significant public confusion about current events. Australian dictionary Macquarie Dictionary named ‘Fake News’ word of the year for 2016 defining it as “disinformation and hoaxes published on websites for political purposes or to drive web traffic” and “the incorrect information being passed along by social media”.

As fake news continues to dominate the cyber space, many people are unable to differentiate authentic news from fake news. As a result, individuals and corporates have suffered in equal measure the effects of fake news. 

In his column #FRONTROW published by the Daily Nation on Wednesday August 16th 2017, Larry Madowo, explains how he fell victim of fake news. Under the title “Orengo Blasts Larry Madowo” someone published a fake conversation between Larry Madowo and Hon James Orengo.

“That is how I ended up a victim of a particularly vicious social media bullying for something I didn’t say. In this brave new world, truth doesn’t matter as long as your lie gets shared aggressively and repeatedly,” notes Larry.

On 1st August 2017, Transparency International Kenya denied knowledge of a document that was circulating on social media under the hash tag #NaswaGateScandal allegedly exposing governors using county funds to fund campaigns. Part of the statement read “This report is not by or from TI-Kenya and has not been authored by anyone associated with T- Kenya.”

Fake news has also invaded newsrooms. It has become a norm to see different versions of headlines, titles or front pages of the same newspaper- a correct version and a fake one. Pseudo social media accounts have also been used extensively to share fake news to unsuspecting audiences. Media houses have also run with fake news only to apologize later to the audience.

In their book The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel identify the essential principles and practices of journalism. The first being truth. As professionals, journalists have a bigger responsibility of having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. It further states that Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information.

Well, in the internet era, we all have the responsibility to verify information that we receive. There is a trend among social media users of forwarding content even without authenticating sources. This, in my view, is the biggest contributor to the spread of fake news.

Facebook has come out strongly to help fight fake news by blocking some of these sites. Paul Horner, another well-known fake news writer, says that some of his websites have been blocked on Facebook. The only challenge is that by the time a site is blocked, the story or video would have gone viral on social media thus the effect remains.

Let us play our individual role in fighting this menace.

Kevin Mabonga is a Communications Specialist

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