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Journalists charged to use social media to curb fake news, false information

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The Publisher of The JournalNG, an online magazine, has charged journalists to make adequate use of social media to promote appropriate information to the public and correct false information by purveyors of fake news.

Ismail Aniemu, who spoke on the ‘Use of Social Media in Modern Journalism Practice’ at a training workshop organised by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON), in Lagos recently, said that journalists are expected to be guided by their professional ethics, which include, truth, balance, accuracy, impartiality, protection of minors and objectivity.

He noted that the advent of social media has made the battle between truth and falsehood fiercer, as some persons with large followers who are not into journalism, have taken better space on the platforms to dispense outright falsehood, half truths and other misleading information to influence opinions of the public.

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Aniemu said this has been made very possible because journalists and information managers, who should feed their audience with accurate information, are either slow at embracing social media or conservative about building a large audience.

He said social media was created to connect people to get accurate information, noting that the common masses have taken advantage of it to report issues using their mobile phones, while journalists feel relaxed.

Aniemu said fake news and falsehood circulated on social media have the capacity to cause panic, unrest, distrust, stereotype and life threatening impacts among other harms, while charging journalists to leverage on the positive side to inform the people accurately.

“Social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.

“Keeping abreast with current affairs is the kernel of concern to every newsman (journalist). Because billions of social media users across the globe are likely to log on to the platforms every morning before going to browse any news website.

“Responsible usage of social media is one that journalists should not shy away from. They must maximise the advantage of social media and ensure their presence on it to correct misinformation by those who spread fake news, because non-regulation of social media has created room for people to spread false information, which could destroy a nation, its citizens and the world at large,” he added.

He further urged journalists to fact-check while sourcing for information online, as well as attribute stories to the original author or writer.

“Because you take responsibility for information dispensed through your accounts, be sure they are from credible and reliable sources. Where you are not the original author or writer of a story, endeavour to give credit to your source in your updates. This absolves you to certain degree, from blame if it turns out not to be true,” he added.

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