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Fake news should be treated as a crime- Osinbajo, Soyinka

Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka have raised concerns regarding fake news and its devastating effects at this time in our history. 

Prof Osinbajo said fake news is capable of discrediting public information and causing fatal damage and violence in the country.

Delivering a keynote address at the BBC conference on fake news in Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo warned that, if fake news is not checked, we might come to a point when nothing will be believable.

He said the issue of fake news becomes more troubling owing to the ability to manipulate news items through technology.

Aside from the damage done to the credibility and integrity of Public information,  Osinbajo said the capacity of fake news to cause alarm and fear and even fatal violence, has been demonstrated again and again.

“One of the great worries for us should be what harm is done to public information. I think that the time may come where if nothing is done, nothing will be believed or be believable because as technology improves its capacity to manipulate, after a while there would be perfect videos using artificial intelligence and all of the other tools of digital technology,” the Vice President said.

Speaking also at the event, Prof Wole Soyinka warned about the adverse effects of fake news, noting that it is capable of causing a 3rd world war.

The Nobel Laureate alongside other panelists at the event unanimously agreed that fake news needs to be criminalized as a way of curbing the menace.

He said, “People do not understand what is like to have things attributed to you which you know nothing about.

“Apart from the fact that I have been killed on social media several times. These last years I had telephone calls asking me where are you and I said I am in a hall. And I said I know why you are calling because you thought I was dead.

“Imagine waking up one day and finding a statement attributed to you and in a kind of language which you never used. For example, during former President Good luck Jonathan, there were statements that I said why did Jonathan marry an illiterate woman. I never made comments like that whatsoever”.

“And I made a statement that if people are not careful world war 3 may quickly be started by fake news and that fake news probably will be generated by a Nigerian. We have a system where fake news can multiply in a second. Many of the fake news carriers use it for Business.

“I have someone whom we have tracked down in Poland, using a fake Facebook page of my name and my picture. And I give him a deadline to pull down the page. He lives in the United States of America but lives in Poland. He is a member of an organization called some AIESEC which actually encourages young businessmen and women.

“The first thing is to accept the fact that fake news is real and people should stop rushing to the fake sites. Individuals who have no voice before have been empowered suddenly. Every individual is now a journalist, editor promoter and most of all a publisher. There is competition to be the first to comment. So the ‘419’ individuals sleep in cafes doing all sorts of things. Fake news should be treated as a crime. When you pin down one of such criminals it should be a case of INTERPOL because they move all over the place. They should be advertised as criminals and get the police to arrest them.

“I had complained about this to a former inspector general of police that this has to do with personal security, community security. I had expected him to reply but there was no response. Not even acknowledgment.

“This should be a collective responsibility. Above all, we should treat it like a crime”.

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