By Charles Omole
One of the hallmarks of Nigerians is our ability to copy anything. So I am not surprised when some Nigerians decided to take a lesson from Putin’s playbook of disinformation strategy. There are so many fake news websites now coming from Nigeria. An analysis done by a technical contact within the Metropolitan police confirms a 1000 percent increase in fake news sites in the past year. They are all over the place.
Focusing on Nigeria; these fake news sites publish outlandish news about the nation and political leaders. But to improve their ability to deceive, they have started using variant web addresses of a mainstream news organisation. So how do you know a fake news website:
1) THE NAME OF THE WEBSITE TENDS TO BE AN ADJUSTED VARIANT OF CREDIBLE NEWS WEBSITES. This is to deceive and confuse. For example, you have the true website METRO.CO.UK; but the fake news site is METRO-UK.COM. You have the real HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, but the fake news site is HUFFINGTONPOST-FM.COM. As you can see, the similarity in name is not accidental. It is intended to confuse people. Reliable news websites have their own distinct names and not a clone of others.
2) CHECK THE URL. Many of the fake news sites have confusing web addresses. This is because of their design to confuse. Especially when on Facebook, you will see all manner of URLs that should ring an alarm. Many of these news sites have the word “Blog” in their names. This tells you this is a personal page of an individual and not a news organisation. Be smart.
3) THE NEWS SITE TENDS TO HAVE TOO MANY DODGY ADVERTS for all sorts of things from money schemes to, dodgy facial creams, to Viagra and so on. A credible news website will not be blighted by so many adverts with scantily clad women and all sorts.
4) THERE WILL BE NO POSTAL ADDRESS OR CONTACT DETAILS OF THE PUBLISHERS. Fake news will tend not to have any contact details for the editors or any postal address at the bottom of the page. They are simply fully anonymous. This is a sign you are on a fake news. And some fake news that have contact details tend to use Gmail or Yahoo and other free email addresses. Most reputable news organisations tend to have proper official email address that reflects their name and not gmail.
5) THERE WILL BE NO ‘ABOUT US’ SECTION ON THE SITE. Credible news sites like to say who they are and how they started. Fake news sites mostly will not have this section. Although some Fake news sites do have About Us, not many do.
6) THE AUTHOR OF THE NEWS ITEM WILL BE MISSING. Most credible news websites with include the writer’s name either at the top or bottom of the news item. Fake news sites do not include any name or they simply state Staff Writer as the author. This is another sign you are on a fake news website.
7) MOST FAKE NEWS DO NOT ALLOW COMMENTS. Most reliable news website tends to have comments section on most news items. But fake news sites do not allow comments at all in most cases. This is another sign to watch out for.
You must suspect a news site that has at least three of the above characteristics. Finally, the foregoing relates to completely fake news websites. There are still some known news sites in Nigeria that still carry falsehood. But They tend to be linked to known Nigerian newspapers and they can easily be contacted. In the end, you will have to develop Critical Thinking and Analysis capabilities to know that not all news are correct and seek corroboration.
So check if other main news sites are carrying the same news. If there is a news that only one news site is carrying; you must treat with caution. Because something is online does not make it credible or authoritative. So stop sharing news that you cannot vouch for, otherwise you are helping the fools seeking to misinform and distort the truth to do their work. We all need to be careful and not allow the enemies of our nation to use us for their own destructive ends.
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