The Federal Government has said that the epidemic sweeping Nigeria and the world today is fake news, saying that the infamous action is worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded.
According to the federal government, the development is a threat to democracy which is a disaster in waiting if not checked.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this during a press conference on the launch of the National Campaign against Fake News on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said: “There is an epidemic sweeping the world. If left unchecked, it could be worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded put together. It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security.
It is a threat to democracy. It is the epidemic of ‘Fake News’, Mixed with hate speech, it is a disaster waiting to happen”.
The Minister said for the media, the epidemic is worse as fake news in most cases designed to misinform, undermines confidence in the media and once the people lose confidence in the media, the society is in trouble.
He said “instead of abating, the fake news issue, which became a global phenomenon in the wake of the 2016 US election, has grown worse, hence our decision to launch this national campaign against it.
“The essence of this campaign is to sensitize all Nigerians to the dangers posed to the peace and security, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria by the phenomenon, and the fact that every Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake news.
The timing is also not unconnected to the role of ‘Fake News’ is aggravating various crises in the country as well as the need to check this phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections.
“For those who may not know, we have been calling national attention to the issue of fake news, misinformation and hate speech since 2017.
We even organized a special National Council on Information on the issue of fake news, misinformation and hate speech in Jos in July 2017.
And at a conference for media handlers of Governors, in Abuja in 2017, we warned that fake news and misinformation could pose a threat to the 2019 general elections”.
On how the government intended to carry out the campaign successfully, the minister said: “We will use all the information dissemination tools at our disposal, work with both the traditional and social media, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to get the word out there about the dangers that fake news poses to our peace and security, our democracy and our corporate existence”.
He gave the assurance that government would not resort to coercion or censorship, saying that: “We do not intend to resort to coercion or censorship in this campaign.
But we want to appeal to all Nigerians to play their active part. Before sharing that information on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, do two things: Ask how credible the source is, and don’t share any information for which you can’t vouch. These simple measures may not end fake news, but they will go a long way in stemming its spread”.