Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a conference organised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Africa on fake news recalled how fake news nearly caused a ‘rift’ in his marriage.
The one-day conference on Wednesday, which marks the beginning of ‘BBC’s 50-day election conference plan’, held at the Transcorp Hotels in Abuja.
At the conference, Mr Osinbajo gave the keynote speech on the effect of misinformation.
The conference tagged, ”Beyond Fake News” had as panellists Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Funke Egbemode; founder of Bella Naija, Uche Pedro; the INEC chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, represented by Festus Okoye and the director of BBC World Service Group, Jamie Angus.
The discussion was moderated by Adesuwa Onyenokwe, publisher, Today’s Woman Magazine.
The discussion dwelt on countering fake news in Nigeria.
Mr Osinbajo in his speech explained how fake news could cause marital crises.
He recalled a report in the past where he was accused of taking pictures with strippers.
”I took a picture with two perfectly clothed ladies but underneath the (published) story, the ‘ladies’ were not wearing much,” he said. ”I had in fact taken pictures with these two ladies at an entertainment event when they were ‘perfectly clothed’.
”But by the time the story was put out (published), it was as if I had taken photos with them when they were not clothed (near nude). The story turned out with a caption as if I took photos with them without much clothes,” he said.
He, however, did not elaborate on how he handled the situation.
”I think the capacity of fake news to cause great harm is not in doubt,” he added.
At the conference, Mr Angus promised that the British media will do more to curb fake news especially coming from Nigeria ”which is its largest audience outside the United Kingdom”.
Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, the head of West Africa Languages, BBC World, said for the first time, the medium will deploy 50 reporters to Nigeria for the 2019 general election, ”to ensure each state has at least one reporter covering it for the election”.
Mrs Pedro said it was sad that a lot of fake news media platforms ”mimic real websites with the same templates”.
”They also contain a lot of fake news information embedded in the truth. The rate of fake news has really accelerated, and is increasingly highly sophisticated,” she said.
Mr Okoye said fake news may cause religious and political crises in the country. He urged the audience to keep spreading accurate information that is fact-checked.
Mrs Egbemode said the spread of fake news was deliberate adding that the people that spread these ”know what they are doing”. She also said editors are also victims of fake news.
Mr Soyinka shared his experiences as a victim of fake news.
He said a statement attributed to him saying that he said former president Goodluck Johnathan married an illiterate was untrue. He described those who pass disinformation as ”sick in the head”.
Mr Soyinka also said there is a need to develop a ‘healthy skepticism’ when confronted with any piece of news.
Meanwhile, the police Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, in his submission at the event said the traditional media needs ”to disconnect from the social media” to curb fake news.
”Most of the stories you see on social media, if not corrected on time, would be on the traditional media and then all goes haywire,” he said.
The panellists took ample time to proffer solutions to how the menace can be curbed.