The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has launched a National Campaign Against Fake News, calling the phenomenon a time bomb that could detonate with deadly consequences if left unchecked.
Addressing a world press conference in Abuja yesterday, the Minister also described fake news as a global epidemic that could be worse than all the plagues that the world had recorded put together, adding that it is a danger to global peace and security, and a threat to democracy.
He said the fake news phenomenon is capable of undermining confidence in the media, adding: â€˜â€™Once the people lose confidence in the media, the media and the society are in trouble.â€™â€™
Mohammed said the essence of the campaign is to â€˜â€™sensitise 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 each and every Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake newsâ€™â€™.
He explained that though the federal government has been calling national attention to the issue of fake news and hate speeches since last year, â€˜â€™the timing of the launch is also not unconnected to the role of fake news in aggravating the various crises in the country as well as the need to check this phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections.â€™â€™
Citing instances from around the world to illustrate the dangers posed by fake news, Mohammed said a recent study by researchers at the Ohio State University in the US concluded that Russian interference and the fake news it promoted probably played a significant role in depressing Hilary Clintonâ€™s support on election day during the 2016 presidential elections in the US.
He also said that in India, about a dozen people have been killed in the past six weeks just because of fake news or hoax messages, noting: â€˜â€™The victims were lynched after they were falsely accused of child abduction based on fake messages circulated via the social media platform, WhatsApp.â€™â€™