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The Increasing Menace Of Social Media Journalism
Published Sep 03, 2022 IN Column, THE REALITIES,
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 THOUGH, the founding of the internet dates back to late 1960s with the development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) which was originally funded by the U.S Department of Defence, January 1, 1983 is generally regarded as the birthday of the internet. This is as a result of the introduction of the “Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP)”. Since then, the technology has metamorphosed from one level of scientific innovation to another. And there is no sufficient appreciation of this invention that has turned the whole world to “a small global village” without the mention of the scientists that invented it – Mssrs. Vinton Cert and Bob Kaln.

However, despite the communication advantages arising from the use of this and its bye-products such as email, whatsapp, facebook, YouTube, tweeter, telegram and so on, it has become a known fact that the technology has also been classified as one of the many causes of the increase evil acts in the world. This is particularly so with the advent of the social media as another form of information reportage. Before this invention, print (newspapers, magazines, bulletins, journals and so on) and electronic (television and radio) were the only media through which news was spread among the people around world.

Social media has turned to a tool in the hands of fraudsters who daily trick people into investing in Ponzi schemes that have wrecked many homes and rendered many individuals bankrupt. Unlike the print and electronic media wherein people are expected to obtain information by moving to places where they can be found in order to access them, the social media offers information to people without necessarily having to move from one place to another, as long as they have mobile phones powered by software such as android, Mac, windows and others.

In Nigeria and a few other climes, social media is unfortunately serving as a weapon of mass destruction of people’s reputation. It offers opportunities for people to “cook up” stories about anything and post same to individuals and groups who equally “forward” the messages to others without proper verification of the authenticity of such reports.

This menace has been worsened by the unethical professional conduct of many on-line newspaper publishers masquerading as journalists. They plagiarize other people’s works with impunity and often times spread fake news.

A case in point was a recent news item published in the Pointer Newspaper of Sunday, the 21st day of August 2022 and on the facebook handle of the Admiralty University of Nigeria (ADUN) on Thursday, 18th of August 2022. According to the report, a JSS1 student who was considered gifted by the university was offered an opportunity to attend classes as an auditor – a person permitted to receive lectures in class without expectation of awards of academic credit for such. This story was copied and modified by some on-line newspapers to create a misleading impression that the young girl in question, Miss Jessica Okonye was offered admission to study at the Admiralty University of Nigeria. What a fallacy! Meanwhile the student presently enjoys the privilege of attending classes as an auditor at the Admiralty University of Nigeria, ADUN.

As the 2023 general elections in Nigeria approaches, many politicians are fast developing more interests in the use of social media for their campaigns towards the elections. Falsehoods about opponents are easily spread through these channels among the largely gullible members of the populace who have little or no intellectual capacity to think for themselves. Instead of issue-based campaigns, these politicians and their followers use the almost-faceless communications style to assassinate the characters of fellow contestants in the same race.

Beyond the increasing menace associated with the practice through the spread of unverified messages, the grammar content of such write-ups is sometimes irritating. One wonders whether the promoters of these news items understand that there are students who read them with a view to learning some ethics there from.

There are those who read messages in facebook. Without understanding their imports before they simply press the “like” tab. They do this even when the message is about someone lamenting the loss of a loved one. The question arises; what do these folks like? Is it the dead, the death or the man posting?

In the meantime, the narrative can change. One of the ways to ensure this is government’s willingness to regulate that aspect of media practice with input from the Nigerian Guild of Editors and similar bodies. Another one is the need for journalism practitioners and their professional bodies to continually engage in public enlightenment of the people on what the practice of the course is all about and the rules of engagement thereof.

On-line newspapers must be subjected to scrutiny before being allowed to be published in the country. In other words, a minimum standard must be set before intending publishers.

Finally, intending social media bloggers and writers wanting to make careers out of the practice must avail themselves of opportunities to be trained by experts in the field. Practitioners along this line must not be allowed to appear as alternatives to junk journalists who practiced in soft sell magazines in Nigeria in the 1990s.

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