The highest victims of fake news in Nigeria are celebrities, politicians, and those in the public eye. They most times wake up in the morning to fake news about them and even fake news about their death trending in news blogs and social media spaces.
A Popular entertainer woke up yesterday to the news about his death trending on news blogs and social media spaces. He started getting frequent calls from his family members, close friends, associates, and even fans who have read about his death sending him condolence messages.
According to him, his old mother had a panic attack after she saw the news about her son’s death and she had no idea that the news was fake, coincidentally, she called the son nonstop and it happened that the son was indisposed to come to the phone or take the call from the mom at that time as he is still sleeping. Before he could call the mom back the mom already had high blood pressure and was rushed to the hospital.
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This trending of fake news about the death of celebrities is becoming a regular thing in social media spaces and blogs in Nigeria. Just a few weeks back, Kanayo o Kanayo, the legendary Nollywood actor started his day with news from blogs and social media spaces about his death flying in. So also Julius Agwu an iconic comedian earlier this year, trended that he is dead, the posters even added pictures of him on his deathbed and they claimed that he died on the sick bed as he has been battling an unknown ailment for years after his wife dumped him. Julius Agwu was actually busy going on tours in solid-state of health while mischief-makers and netizens who are only interested in attracting huge traffic to their blogs were trending the news about his death.
This is one of the major reasons the government has been planning to regulate the media space and regulate the contents that are shared in the media space and news blogs and provide a heavier punishment for fake news mongers. If you know that there is a huge consequences awaiting you for sharing news that you know to be fake then you will think twice before sharing it and even if you believe that the news may be true, you are expected to take active steps in verifying the veracity of the news before sharing it or posting it on social media space or news blogs.
In as much as most of us will always stand against the government for trying to restrict or regulate the media space, social media users and bloggers should as well know that sharing fake news with the intent to damage a person’s reputation, cause a threat or emotional distress to the victim is an offense which carries both criminal consequences that the poster can be prosecuted and if found guilty sent to jail and also can give the victim right of action against the poster in tort.
The provisions of S 24 of the Cybercrime Act of 2015 specifically criminalize the act of sharing fake news of this nature and any person that is found guilty of this act is liable for at least 3 years imprisonment term.
It provides thus:
Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that –
(a) is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent:
commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Stanley Alieke, Esq. is a Nigerian quintessential lawyer, public interest advocate and a media personality. He constantly writes on law/politics relating topics and makes constant appearances on TV and on radio talking about law related topics and advocating for the interest of the masses.
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