The term ‘fake news’ has been leaving the lips of journalists, politicians, and academics alike an increasing amount in the past year. Unsurprisingly, media coverage on fake news has been concentrated on Western politics – largely presented on Trump’s unpredictable Twitter account. Indeed, fake news in the Western World is certainly a problem, however, it should be understood that this problem is in fact on the rise all over the globe as well.
There are two main reasons why we should consider fake news a global issue. These include the geographical presence of fake news and the international nature of social media. Firstly, false information has been advertised in various regions across the world, which is geographical evidence that it is a global issue. The ethnic cleansing in Myanmar – as an example – has links to Facebook. The UN stated that this social media platform was involved in spreading hate speech in the region.
There is a worry that a similar situation may arise in Nigeria. Recently, multiple clashes between farmers and cattle herders have occurred in the region. This is in addition to issues in the Muslim-majority North. Tolu Ogunlesi, the Nigerian government’s Social Media and Digital Strategist, stated that the government was concerned about fake news in the run-up to elections next year because “there are just so many nodes of conflict”. This directly links to how the online nature of social media creates a simple and quick way to spread information globally without facts or opinions being monitored beforehand. Though this level of free speech should be celebrated, it is also becoming dangerous to international and domestic politics.
There is no doubt, therefore, that the issue of false information is cropping up in a variety of places over the globe. And so, next comes the question: how do we solve a problem like fake news? The most straightforward approach involves governments monitoring and limiting social media, yet this is a restriction of the freedom of speech. If the Nigerian government attempted to prevent opinions being shared online, it is likely that they would be accused of preventing this human right.
Another option includes the intervention of international organisations such as the UN. Currently, the UN is actually investigating the genocide in Myanmar and have picked up on the use of Facebook. However, for the UN to accurately investigate every case of fake news would be both time-consuming and unrealistic.
Therefore, it is not feasible for governments and international organisations to monitor and prevent fake news themselves. Instead, it is now simply up to us to critically view news ourselves. In this ever-increasing digital age, it seems that filtering the information we consume on social media and on the news is the most logistical option for tackling the global issue of fake news. Fake news is definitely an issue present all over the globe, not just in the Western World. The solution to such a problem involves the entire population being educated as more critical readers. Though pessimistic, until this occurs, fake news will continue to cause social and political havoc all over the world.