Fake news in Africa

Posted on September 7, 2017 09:45 am

Fake news is described to be any inaccurate or sensationalist article that seeks to mislead, or misrepresent a person or event, to help push a certain agenda. It has become one of the most talked topic in the world since last year’s US election and not even Africa has been spared.Some experts in Africa are already discussing the rise of fake news and its influence on the brain. The impact the spread of a false story can have on the subject is clear, but it can also affect those who share misinformation in the first place.In Africa, experts have accused Facebook of not acting fast enough to stamp out fake news since its the most widely used social media platform in the continent.Some have questioned how an organization famous for its mantra of move fast and break things had failed to combat the rise of fake news articles on its platform.In what appears to be Africa trend, fake news and hoaxes hog the spotlight during election seasons, as the last Angola and Kenya presidential elections clearly proved. News articles from dubious websites and unverified sources have taken center stage in Africa recently, particularly in the lead-up to the elections.However, according to a report your blogger has obtained, as soon as the election comes to an end, fewer hoax stories are appearing on social media.Some experts have linked the fake news phenomenon in Africa to the fact that Africans are not accustomed to dissent and democracy.Africans love to talk and share stories. But unfortunately a lot of them can’t distinguish between facts and lies.A lot of people don’t base their opinions on facts. And social media, the biggest source of fake news and hoaxes, amplifies that tendency.According to the report, sex, sports, violence, drama, intrigue and mystery are topics that Africans are most interested in.Fake news distort facts.

Politics is especially prone to, a lot of times promotes, distortion. In Kenya for example, fake news are used to distort the truth and shape public opinion, especially useful during the recent elections.Also a low literacy rate in Africa has not helped with the rapid spread of fake news in the continent.Hoaxes and fake news also proliferated in the first half of 2017, but not as widespread as in Western world. In the west, majority of people were media literate enough before the onset of social media. But in Africa, people can’t deal with being bombarded by huge flows of information coming from social media. Africans like sharing and they share these fake news happily without checking the facts. Hoaxes and fake news are trending down, according to the report, after it monitored hoax content posted on social media in Africa in the first six months of 2017.One of the report authors told your blogger that they monitored three major news topics in the past six months, from January to end of June. According to authors, both social and traditional media had a lot of coverage on the fake news.A total of 16,907 articles were written on fake news topic, over 90 percent of them published on online media.Newspapers were in second place, contributing 50 percent of the total media coverage on fake news topic. On social media, Twitter dominated with 90.3 percent of the conversations, followed by Facebook.The report also reveals that most conventional media opt for a neutral stance in reporting unverified news, while many netizens on social media happily make their sentiment positive or negative known to their audience.Educating people to be more media literate will take time, but the pay-off is definitely worth it. Authors says there’s need for people across Africa to be able to distinguish between hoax and actual news.Africa’s conventional media’s neutral stance put them in a good position to educate people on the importance media literacy.

Contador Harrison