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Fake News Has Capacity To Cause Disunity – Osinbajo

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Fake News Has Capacity To Cause Disunity – Osinbajo

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday painted a picture of the destructive power of fake news.

Osinbajo said that the capacity of fake news is lethargic as it does not only cause personal harm but can also lead to violence as it has been demonstrated.

Besides, he said fake news can also cause damage to credibility and integrity of public information.

The Vice President spoke in Abuja on Wednesday at the BBC Conference, on Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News.

He stressed that the capacity of fake news to cause great harm is not in doubt as it has the ability to mislead without realizing it.

Osinbajo who narrated his personal experience in the hands of fake news peddlers, however, said there remains a problem of drawing a line so as not to infringe on the rights of the people.

He said: “I have also been a victim. Fake news may also cause you marital peace. About three weeks ago I got a call from my wife in the office and she said, Yemi what are you doing with strippers. There have been this story on a very famous blog that said, ‘Osinbajo caught with strippers.’ And there was also a photograph of me standing in between the perfectly clothed ladies and under the photograph, the same ladies now not wearing much. It turned out that I have taken a photograph with the ladies at an entertainment event when they were perfectly clothed.

“The capacity of fake news to cause great arm is not in doubt at all. It has been the realization that it may even mislead. I think it was Wilson Churchill that said a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get his pants on. But why fake news is now news, is obviously because of the greater dimension of content of harm that it can do and then the scope.

“A lot of these are as a result of the advancement in technology, especially in the past few decades or so. But I think as for the damage done to the credibility and integrity of public information, the capacity of fake news to cause alarm, fear and even violence has been demonstrated again and again.”

He, however, warned that greater damage will be done if nothing is done about it.

“One of the great worries for us should be, what harm it has done to public information. I think that a time may come if nothing is done, when nothing will be believed or nothing will be believable because as technology improves in its capacity to manipulate and disseminate, after a while there will be perfect videos raising artificial intelligence and all of the other tools of digital technology,” he posited.

He added, “A perfect video of people speaking or somebody making a speech that he never made at events that never happened. It will become more and more difficult to differentiate between what is truth and what is not.

“I think if we discredit public information, it is a massive danger for society itself aside from the capacity of its to cause physical harm. Ones it destroys the believability of public information, then the means of communicating with each other has been soiled forever.”

While raising concern of human right in an attempt to address fake news, Osinbajo, however, said it will be impossible to regulate social media without infringing on fundamental rights.

He said: “Today there are three issues we have to look at. The first is to which extent can we hold local media owners to account. A lot of the disinformation obviously are from social media. It is easier to sue the traditional media because they are bound by local laws and it is much easier to hold them to account. But social media is under multi-jurisdictional regulation if there is any threat. But I think there is opportunity here for more jurisdictional collaboration. There should be some kind of agreement between countries that should help us regulate social media much more effectively.

“The second concern is how to deal with the consequence without infringing on the Freedom of Information and also the freedom of the press. Everybody is a press now, so freedom of the press means my freedom to own a blog, my freedom to determinate information, but the question is how do we regulate now without infringing on these fundamental freedoms.

“Really it will be impossible to regulate social media without infringing on fundamental rights. There is no way we are going to leave that in the hands of government or in the hands of the legislature without refining some activity on the part of government of the legislature. How do you create that balance?

Commending the organizer for coming up with the conference, Osinbajo said: “This conversation is overdue and I hope that we are able to provide some direction for the way we should handle this problem on fake news.”
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