‘Let truth and falsehood grapple. Whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?’– Milton
The amount of disinformation and misinformation being disseminated through social media is troubling. It’s no surprise it has led to a loss of trust in the news outlets, so much that we now need a dedicated media for fact-checking. The advent of the internet makes the proliferation of fake news easy, far-reaching and more damaging. An example of the impact of fake news can be observed in the surge in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria between April and July 2020. Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 tied the increase to the widespread belief and attitude that COVID-19 is not real as purported by mainstream media. Extant fallacies and falsehoods perpetrated by some media group have no doubt led people to this path. Therefore, there is a need to cushion the impact of fake news by pursuing and protecting facts, and by so doing, rebuild the lost trust in the media.
One way to combat fake news is through regulations. The advantage of the internet and the social media in sourcing information cannot be spurned, however, the rate at which these platforms have tarnished and are still tarnishing the image of the media through unprofessional practices, and dissemination of unverified and sensational information is overbearing and thus, calls for a critical regulation. Media leaders should, therefore, take charge of regulating information being released to the public. This can be done through accurate information sourcing, credible reporting and maintaining professional ethics. By so doing, the lost trust in the media would be adequately rebuilt.
Fake news can be combated through the aid of technology such as artificial intelligence tools. Technology today has gained prominence in almost every walk of life due to its efficacy in solving human problems. With the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in detecting and monitoring fake news by media houses, there would be the identification of accurate articles out of thousands within the shortest time possible. Algorithms used in AI are trained to identify the markers of malicious documents and they manifest the main mechanism for identifying an inauthentic text easily. Thus, if AI, a technological tool, is properly integrated into the media, the source of the lost trust would be fixed and the trust rebuilt.
Practising media and information literacy is another way to curb fake news and rebuild trust in the media. The integration of fact-checking training into the academic curriculum would equip students with the necessary skills to identify fake news and prioritize professional ethics. Another way is that media educators should endeavour to incorporate a full module of trust-building skills into the syllabus of media education. Journalists should be trained from scratch to be fully aware of trust-building as spinal to the success of the media as a whole. By modelling their ways of sourcing verified data and checking facts, educators would better their potential journalists’ penchant for professional excellence.
Fake news is responsible for the lost trust in the media. Implementing the aforementioned suggestions would help rebuild this trust. Despite all measures, it is still possible for misreporting to occur, when this happens, the media must be transparent and take responsibility to gain the people’s trust.
Oke Idris Ayomo is a final year student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Bayero University, Kano. He has won the Fitrah Review Ramadan Writing Contest (Essay Category) in 2019 and was among the 82 finalists of the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Global Essay Writing Competition, 2020. He writes copy, content and research at Generis Ivy Schools.