Man, as a social being cannot do without information. Information avails us the opportunity to share ideas, concepts, thoughts and most importantly to convey messages to each other. We communicate as human beings and we socialize by sharing information. Thus, information is an important asset to human race.
The digitalization of the world by the internet brought tremendous impact. From the positive sense, access to information was facilitated but from a more devastating end, the internet paved way for the spread of fake or unsubstantiated information with great speed. Patricia Friedrich et al, capture this fact thus, “while the internet has caused a democratization of knowledge and expanded the population that gets a say in the construction of knowledge (consider collective encyclopedias, wikis and dictionaries), it has had as a side effect, the possible spreading of deliberately fake information.”
Fake news is often disseminated through social media outlets because of the intimidating publicity it enjoys. It is no gainsaying that social media has come to stay. Billions of people in the world; young, middle-aged and old are all citizens of this media-world. On daily basis, there is outpour of information and almost everyone on social media claims to know and possess information. Whether such information is true or false, deliberately created to infuse fear on people or with political interest, are not the basic concerns of many social network users.
We are faced with a more compelling and pathetic issue as regards the dissemination of fake news. This pathetic condition is the commercialization of fake news. It consists of people establishing fake media companies that are concerned with creating fake uniform resource location (URL) in a manner that is identical with that of popular and genuine websites so that people can erroneously get access to and consume the fake news they spread all geared towards economic purpose. It is against this backdrop that Richard Gray described the society as a world of ‘alternative facts.’ He observes that “our society is a bewildering maze of claim and counter-claim, where hoaxes spread with frightening speed on social media and spark angry backlashes from people who take what they read at face value.”
The devastating ends of fake news cannot be overemphasized. It has misled many, wreaked havoc, fueled violence, led to killings and brought psychological damage. To avoid the consequences of fake news, we must scrutinize whatever information we come across. We must not believe from a surface level but subject the utterances of others to a rational scrutiny in a bid to sieve out the truth inherent in it. It is important to note that not everything in the internet is reliable. The internet can also mislead, this is why we should be skeptical at first sight about any information we come across in the virtual world.