The discovery of Social media has given rise to various free platforms which are gaining prominence worldwide over the past decade. Easy use of texts, images, recordings/podcasts, videos and innovations of all sorts have been created and can be shared and disseminated, including fake news in all of its dimensions.
What is fake news, hate speech, rumours and harmful stereotypes and why is it a major threat to the health of the internet?
Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity or making money through false advertising.
Fake news is an invention – a lie created out of nothing – that takes the appearance of real news with the aim of deceiving people.
In some instances, this is grounded in misinformation and rumours, however, more insidious instances of hate speech
Hate Speech is any public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
Hate speech is an expression or incitement to cause harm such as negative discrimination and violence.
In another context, it could be said to be expressions that hurt a community’s feelings, including insulting beliefs.
The criticism of politicians and other powerful interests, exposing them to contempt could also be referred to as hate speech.
Rumour is a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.
What this means, is that the person telling the story does not know for certain if it is true or not. Most of the time, people who spread rumors do not bother to determine if there is any truth to what they are saying.
Stereotyping is a mistaken idea or belief many people have about a thing or group that is based upon how they look on the outside, which may be untrue or only partly true.
Stereotyping people is a type of prejudice because what is on the outside is a small part of who a person is.
Fake news, hate speech, and harmful stereotypes have had a detrimental effect in promoting violence among communities across Nigeria. False information presents a significant risk to the peace and security of a community because it can serve as a channel to start or aggravate the conflict.
Communities’ collective responsibilities in tackling false information can be very effective in addressing them. If community members will embrace the effective usage of social media and develop the skills to identify fake news, harmful stereotypes and hate speech as well as the inherent dangers, then they can make better-informed decisions and stop the spread of false information for the growth and peace of the society.
Understanding fake news, hate speech, rumours and harmful stereotypes is a campaign by the Community initiatives to promote peace (CIPP). The project is a response to the increasing threat of violence in high-risk states in the North-west (Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina States) and North-central (Kogi, Benue, and Plateau States) parts of Nigeria.
This ongoing CIPP campaign was developed to increase the ability of community members in CIPP project States to understand the dangers of fake news, hate speech and rumours by enlightening them on how to verify information received on social media.