Elections are over but fake news [henceforth we will refer to fake news as misinformation] is not going out of vogue, rather it keeps multiplying as user-generated contents grow in the digital space. During the elections, the highly acclaimed season of misinformation, we identified several people and online accounts who were neck-bent on misinforming the public.
For the websites, we noticed, first, their usage of sensational headlines. Such attention-grabbing headlines were usually long and laden with words that appeal to reader’s emotions, interests, political, religious or ethnic affiliations. An example is this headline: “Breaking: INEC Issues Certificate To Sen. Adeleke As Original Governor-Elect & Court Also Orders Oyetola To Vacate Office“. Another example is KING HEROD: JAMB REGISTRAR IS-HAQ OLOYODE DEALS WITH CHRISTIAN STAFFERS FOR VOTING ATIKU AS HE TURNS PLACE INTO A PERSONAL EMPIRE. Not only is this headline very wordy, but it also appeals to the reader’s religious sentiments. And guess what? The content of the story didn’t really relate to the headline!
We usually say that if a headline is unnecessarily long and trying desperately to explain its complexity, be sceptical about its news content. [check out more information on being sceptical about headlines on our article series.]
Next, we noticed that ‘misinformation warriors’ really love to attribute quotes to celebrities, high-profile people and credible organizations without evidence. In order to spread their fake news and opinions, these sites set out to look for a popular but controversial person who would ordinarily not support the idea as a perfect loop to propagate their evangelism.
During the aftermath of the elections, many quotes were attributed to the INEC chairman, opposition leaders, the United States, British Embassy and CNN. One of such examples is the news debunked by DUBAWA which claimed that Atiku was congratulated by the United States ahead of elections and a recent one which claimed that the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election and ordered INEC to conduct a new vote.
Another point we noted is the use of confusing statements that do not link to the headline. Succeeding paragraphs are not always in line with the previous one nor the headline in tangent with the body content. When reading through the story, the reader might find it too hard to link the paragraphs together. The headline talks about one thing in a sensational way and the body pictures another thing in a weird mix of truths and lies.
Also important is that these misinformation agents usually manipulate existing original news content but in a really really bad way. They would pick a true story and omit certain details like the date the event happened or the people who spoke at the event. Sometimes, they use a date and event that does not even exist. This is most common on the social media pages of so-called news websites. A prominent one is the Hope for Nigeria Facebook page, and we have done several fact-checks that originated from lies on that page.
That being said, we have curated a list of websites that are quite notable for publishing unverified content:
- Republican news (largely operating on Facebook)
- Hopefornigeriaonline.com (largely operating on Facebook)
You are welcome!
For any news content or claim that you find suspicious, or any website you suspect to have any of these characteristics, report them to DUBAWA via her Twitter account @dubawaNG or via whatsapp: 0806 935 2412.
Remember, once it is FAKE, it is not NEWS!