Training Journalists In The Era Of Fake News

 

 

As uncannily realistic “deep fake” videos proliferate online, including one recently retweeted by Donald Trump, journalism schools are scrambling to adapt to an era of misinformation — or fake news.

Experts discussed how to train tomorrow’s reporters for these new challenges at the World Journalism Education Congress in Paris last week.

The three-day event — “Teaching Journalism During a Disruptive Age” — was attended by 600 educators and researchers from 70 countries.

“We have journalism educators from places as different as Bangladesh and Uganda, but essentially we all face the same challenges,” congress organiser Pascal Guenee, head of IPJ Dauphine journalism school in Paris, told AFP.

In China, the government makes no secret of its tight grip on the media.

But fake news is seeping into traditional media via Weibo, WeChat and other Chinese-language social media platforms, said journalism professor Peiqin Chen of the Shanghai International Studies University.

“When someone posts false information on Weibo, it can be reposted by a mainstream newspaper’s Weibo account,” she said. “Other mainstream media pick up on it from there.”

“Mainstream media play the biggest role in confirming and spreading fake news in China,” she added.

For politics or profit

It was US President Donald Trump who first popularised the phrase “fake news” in attacks on the news media.

But in May, Trump tweeted a video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which appeared to have been edited to focus on sections of a speech in which she stuttered and mispronounced certain words.

“Pelosi stammers through news conference,” he wrote.

Another doctored Pelosi video, which went viral online, slowed down her speech to give the impression she was drunk.

The motivation behind fake news is not always political, said Gifty Appiah-Adjei from the University of Education in Ghana.

“Often it is for financial gain by creating internet traffic, or it’s entertainment,” she told AFP. “And some people write fake stories just for fun.”

Journalism education “is the most effective means by which fake news can be addressed”, she argued.

Until recently, however, how to detect and counter fake news has rarely been taught as a stand-alone course at journalism schools, she said.

Checking sources has “always been part of the curriculum,” said Kamilla Nigmatullina, senior lecturer at Russia’s Saint Petersburg State University.

But today’s ever-more sophisticated misinformation — including doctored videos and photos — requires a fresh approach.

“Journalism schools in China give some courses in fact-checking, but the academic material we study is based on research in other countries,” said Chen.

“China still has a long way to go.”

But for Nigmatullina, we do not need to develop a whole new discipline.

Technology not the answer

“What we do need is joint research with scholars from different disciplines,” she told AFP.

“We could work with neuroscience students, for example, to determine why people decide to share certain information.”

In one project organised by the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA), students from almost 20 journalism schools in 13 countries participated in the fact-checking of articles in the run-up to the European Union elections.

One of the aims, said project manager Nadia Vissers from the Artesis Plantijn University in Belgium, was to learn the difference between “misinformation” and “disinformation”.

“Misinformation is false information spread without the intention to cause harm,” she explained. “Disinformation has the intention of spreading lies and influencing people.”

Misleading information in the media, for example, about migration, climate change and Brexit was classified as “mostly true”, “mostly false”, “false” or “uncheckable”.

The project runs on a shoe-string budget, said Vissers, because “we don’t want any funding from Facebook or Google”.

“The goal is to train journalists,” said Eric Nahon, deputy head of IPJ Dauphine and chair of the panel discussion.

“Technological solutions are not the answer — we need educated journalists.”

AFP

Fake News Rampant After Sri Lanka Attacks Despite Social Media Ban

 

Sri Lankan social networks saw a surge in fake news after the Easter suicide bombings a month ago despite an official social media blackout, highlighting the inability of governments to contain disinformation, experts said.

A nine-day ban on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp was introduced following the Islamic State-claimed attacks on churches and hotels on April 21 which killed 258 people and wounded nearly 500.

Many anxious social media users switched to virtual private networks (VPNs) or the TOR network to bypass the order and keep communication open with friends and relatives as the extent of the carnage became clear.

READ ALSO: Trump Impeachment Pressure Grows From Democrats

But for others, the tools were a means to spread confusion and vitriol as the island struggled to come to terms with one of the worst terror attacks in its history.

Sanjana Hattotuwa, who monitors social media for fake news at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, said the government blackout had failed to prevent “engagement, production, sharing and discussion of Facebook content”, and that he had seen a significant increase in false reports.

 Old coffins 

AFP has published half a dozen fact-checks debunking false claims made on Facebook and Twitter after the Easter attacks.

Some had dug out photos of coffins and funerals from Sri Lanka’s brutal decades-long civil war and claimed they showed victims of the blasts.

One video posted to Facebook showed police arresting a man dressed in a burqa and claimed he was involved in the bombings. The video was actually from 2018 and showed a man who had used a burqa to hide his identity while he sought to attack someone over a debt issue.

Another used a five-year-old photo from India that showed a group of men wearing T-shirts with “ISIS”, another name for Islamic State, written on them to claim there was an active IS cell in eastern Sri Lanka.

One Twitter user claiming to be a high-ranking Sri Lankan army brigadier used the platform to accuse neighbouring India of being involved in the attacks. The account was later taken down by Twitter after the Sri Lankan army complained.

Authorities in Sri Lanka — where ethnic divisions still linger after decades of war — previously blocked Facebook in March 2018 after Buddhist hardliners used incendiary posts to fan religious violence that left three people dead and reduced several hundred homes and shops to ashes.

The surge in fake news has further blemished the troubled reputation of social media — which several years ago had been seen as a means to expand freedom of information — in the region.

In India, authorities have temporarily shut down mobile networks or blocked social media apps during riots, while critics say the spread of hate speech via Facebook was crucial in facilitating a brutal 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Since the attacks, Sri Lankan authorities have imposed other short bans on social media, including earlier this month after mobs in the northwestern town of Chilaw attacked Muslim-owned businesses in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper.

 No answer 

But for those unaware of the government ban or unable to circumvent it, the blocking of social media in the days following the attacks was a cause for panic.

A Sydney-based engineer was desperate to call his sister in Colombo soon after hearing about the Easter blasts, but could not get through.

“I kept calling her on WhatsApp, but there was no reply. We are so used to calling on WhatsApp, I had forgotten her landline number,” the Sri Lankan-born engineer said.

Fortunately, he said, he managed to call a friend in Colombo who was using a VPN to access WhatsApp and told him about the social media ban that prevented him from reaching his sister.

AFP

APC Cautions Members Against ‘Fake News’ On Kogi, Bayelsa Gov Elections

 

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has cautioned party members, supporters and the general public on what it has described as fake news being spread in the social media on the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa State governorship elections.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement on Monday, noted that the party had initially ignored the “fake statements” but it became necessary to debunk them, “particularly many of such statements being ascribed to the Party and the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole”.

According to the spokesperson, neither the party nor the National Chairman has made any statement at any forum regarding the elections and he described the reports making the rounds as “mere fabrications intended for mischief”.

He further stated that in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision for the country and the APC’s continued effort towards deepening participatory democracy, the National Working Committee (NWC) will abide by the rules at every stage of the process of primary elections.

The party also promised to provide a level playing field to all aspirants, while adding that all relevant information and the official party guidelines for the respective elections will be released through its official channels in due course.

Death Rumour: El-Rufai Cautions Nigerians Against Spreading Fake News

 

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, has cautioned Nigerians against the spread of fake news.

His statement follows death rumours from alleged involvement in a car accident.

The governor stated this during a welcome dinner organised for him by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after his arrival from a one week holiday abroad.

He said he was never involved in any car accident or in a coma as speculated on social media.

He explains that he took a  break and travelled abroad to rest after his re-election as governor, only to hear about his involvement in a car accident that led to the death of his driver, while he went into a coma.

He, however, advised Nigerians to avoid spreading false and unsubstantiated stories that are capable of overheating the polity on the social media, adding that those who spread the rumour of his death are playing God.

The governor also criticised the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, over his claim that he won the February 23 poll in Kaduna and not Buhari, adding that Abubakar might have won the election in his dream.

While thanking the majority of people of Kaduna state for reelecting him as governor,  El-Rufai promises to be fair and just to all citizens and zones in the state regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations.

Osinbajo, Soyinka Warn Nigerians About Dangers Of Fake News

 

Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka have raised concerns regarding fake news and its devastating effects at this time in our history. 

Prof Osinbajo said fake news is capable of discrediting public information and causing fatal damage and violence in the country.

Delivering a keynote address at the BBC conference on fake news in Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo warned that, if fake news is not checked, we might come to a point when nothing will be believable.

He said the issue of fake news becomes more troubling owing to the ability to manipulate news items through technology.

Aside from the damage done to the credibility and integrity of Public information,  Osinbajo said the capacity of fake news to cause alarm and fear and even fatal violence, has been demonstrated again and again.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Government Is Corrupt, Says Saraki

“One of the great worries for us should be what harm is done to public information. I think that the time may come where if nothing is done, nothing will be believed or be believable because as technology improves its capacity to manipulate, after a while there would be perfect videos using artificial intelligence and all of the other tools of digital technology,” the Vice President said.

Speaking also at the event, Prof Wole Soyinka warned about the adverse effects of fake news, noting that it is capable of causing a 3rd world war.

The Nobel Laureate alongside other panelists at the event unanimously agreed that fake news needs to be criminalized as a way of curbing the menace.

He said, “People do not understand what is like to have things attributed to you which you know nothing about.

“Apart from the fact that I have been killed on social media several times. These last years I had telephone calls asking me where are you and I said I am in a hall. And I said I know why you are calling because you thought I was dead.

“Imagine waking up one day and finding a statement attributed to you and in a kind of language which you never used. For example, during former President Good luck Jonathan, there were statements that I said why did Jonathan marry an illiterate woman. I never made comments like that whatsoever”.

“And I made a statement that if people are not careful world war 3 may quickly be started by fake news and that fake news probably will be generated by a Nigerian. We have a system where fake news can multiply in a second. Many of the fake news carriers use it for Business.

“I have someone whom we have tracked down in Poland, using a fake Facebook page of my name and my picture. And I give him a deadline to pull down the page. He lives in the United States of America but lives in Poland. He is a member of an organization called some AIESEC which actually encourages young businessmen and women.

“The first thing is to accept the fact that fake news is real and people should stop rushing to the fake sites. Individuals who have no voice before have been empowered suddenly. Every individual is now a journalist, editor promoter and most of all a publisher. There is competition to be the first to comment. So the ‘419’ individuals sleep in cafes doing all sorts of things. Fake news should be treated as a crime. When you pin down one of such criminals it should be a case of INTERPOL because they move all over the place. They should be advertised as criminals and get the police to arrest them.

“I had complained about this to a former inspector general of police that this has to do with personal security, community security. I had expected him to reply but there was no response. Not even acknowledgment.

“This should be a collective responsibility. Above all, we should treat it like a crime”.

Spiegel Suspends Two Editors After Fake News Scandal

FILES) In this file photo taken on November 29, 2012, the head office of German publishing house “Der Spiegel” is pictured in Hamburg, northern Germany. PHOTO: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP

 

Influential German news weekly Der Spiegel, shaken by a scandal over a reporter who admitted faking stories for years, said it has suspended two senior editors.

The contracts of Ullrich Fichtner, an editor in chief, and Matthias Geyer, a chief editor, have been “suspended until the (magazine’s) internal commission has completed its investigation into the affair,” the editor in chief Steffen Klusmann said in an internal letter, of which AFP obtained a copy on Friday.

On December 19, Der Spiegel stunned the media world by revealing that one of its award-winning reporters had for years falsified stories.

Claas Relotius, 33, resigned this month after admitting he had made up stories and invented protagonists in more than a dozen articles in the magazine’s print and online editions.

“The Relotius affair raises the question as to whether” Ullrich and Fichtner “can continue in their jobs after such a disaster,” said Klusmann.

“The first discovered it for Der Spiegel, the second hired him and was until recently his superior.”

“We could now hold to account anyone who has dealt with Relotius, and that could continue up to the top of the hierarchy,” he said.

Der Spiegel said on December 23 a criminal complaint would be filed against Relotius after it emerged he may also have embezzled donations intended for Syrian street children.

Relotius on Thursday denied the accusations.

AFP

Ronaldo Denies Rape Allegation As Police Reopen Investigation

Cristiano Ronaldo

 

Police said Monday they had reopened an investigation into a rape accusation made by a former model who says soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo attacked her in his Las Vegas hotel penthouse suite in 2009.

Ronaldo, who now plays for Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, rejected the charges as “fake news” during a live chat on Instagram.

“What they said today, fake — fake news,” the 33-year-old star of the Portuguese national team said in a post that was later deleted.

Kathryn Mayorga, 34, of Las Vegas, accused Ronaldo, in a 32-page complaint filed last month with a district court in Nevada, of raping her on June 13, 2009.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed in a statement that didn’t name the superstar it had responded to a call of a sexual assault on that date.

“At the time the report was taken, the victim did not provide detectives with the location of the incident or suspect description. A medical exam was conducted,” it said.

“As of September 2018, the case has been reopened and our detectives are following up on information being provided by the victim.”

Mayorga alleges in the lawsuit that she was pressured into signing a nondisclosure agreement to keep the alleged rape secret and is seeking no less than $200,000 in penalties and damages.

The complaint was first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. Lawyers for Ronaldo have reportedly threatened to sue the magazine over the story.

In the suit, Mayorga said she met Ronaldo, who was then 24 years old, on the evening of June 12, 2009, at the Rain Nightclub in the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

It said she accepted an invitation to join Ronaldo and others in his penthouse suite to “enjoy the view of the Las Vegas strip.”

She was invited to join guests in a hot tub but she declined because she did not have a bathing suit, the complaint said.

Ronaldo offered her clothing and then followed her into a bathroom where she was going to change clothes, it said.

 ‘No, no, no’

After she refused his demand to perform oral sex and said she wanted to leave, Ronaldo pulled her into a bedroom and anally raped her while she screamed “no, no, no,” the complaint said.

“When Cristiano Ronaldo completed the sexual assault of the plaintiff, he allowed her to leave the bedroom stating he was sorry, he was usually a gentleman,” it said.

The lawsuit said Mayorga reported the alleged assault to the Las Vegas police the same day and underwent an examination at a local hospital.

It said the assault had left her with “severe emotional and bodily injuries including but not limited to anal contusions, posttraumatic stress disorder, and major depression.”

She developed an alcohol problem and was suicidal, according to court documents.

Under pressure from Ronaldo’s “fixers,” Mayorga settled the case “in exchange for a payment of $375,000 and non-disclosure of the sexual assault,” the lawsuit said.

It claimed the agreement should be voided because she was “incompetent and lacked the mental capacity to participate in negotiations and settlement of her claims due to the injuries suffered during the initial sexual assault.”

The suit also called for the agreement to be dismissed because it amounted to concealment of a crime for which there is no statute of limitations.

The unidentified “fixers” were named as co-defendants in the lawsuit, which also accuses the Juventus forward of violating the 2010 nondisclosure agreement.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Mayorga, who has a degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said she was inspired to come forward in part by the #MeToo movement that has exposed the sexual abuse of women by powerful men.

Ronaldo is a five-time winner of FIFA’s men’s player of the year award.

The Portuguese striker, who is a married father of four, left Real Madrid this year to join Juventus for 100 million euros ($117 million).

Ronaldo won two La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns with Real after joining from Manchester United in 2009 for a then world-record fee of £80 million ($94 million).

AFP

Channels TV Does Not Support Any Political Party – John Momoh

 

The Chairman/CEO of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, says the station will remain committed to its principles of balancing news reports as well as ensuring accountability and transparency at all times.

Mr Momoh said this on Friday when the Minister for Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, visited the station’s headquarters in Lagos.

He said, “What we do here is to report all sides to an issue. At all times, we strive to do that.

“Secondly, when events happen around the country, it’s our responsibility to report. When it threatens national security, it’s our responsibility to make sure that such matters are kept in check so that we do not threaten our own national security.

Read Also: Information Minister, Lai Mohammed Visits Channels Television

Mr Momoh explained that he, as well as the staff of the station, remains non-partisan.

He said, “Channels is a professional organisation. We do not support any political party.

“I, as the head, am not a politician. I belong neither to PDP, APC, ADC, ADP, any other party. I am, purely, along with my colleagues, a professional. I do not intend to join any political party.

“And we also must serve our watchdog role because that’s the essence of our being – the watchdog role of our society; and to make the people aware of their rights and responsibilities to the state, to the government.

“So, when people think that because we are reporting the opposition, we are part of the opposition, that’s a no-no.

“When people think that we are reporting government, so we are part of government or sympathetic to government, that’s a no-no.”

Information Minister, Lai Mohammed Visits Channels Television

 

The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, on Friday visited Channels Television.

During a meeting with the management of the station, he addressed issues around fake news, saying that the trend is capable of destabilising the country.

See photos below.

Fake News Capable Of Destabilising Countries – Lai Mohammed

 

The Minister of Information, Mr Lai Mohammed, says fake news is capable of destabilising countries as well as government policies if not checked.

The minister said this on Friday when he visited the corporate headquarters of Channels Television in Lagos, as part of the Federal Government’s campaign against the phenomenon.

He said, “Fake news if left unchecked like I said, has the capacity to bring even war to countries.

“We all saw what happened in Rwanda where over 800 innocent lives were lost to fake news and hate speeches.

“In Nigeria here, we’ve seen that fake news has aggravated the natural political fault lines of ethnicity and religion”.

Read Also: Channels TV Remains Committed To Balanced Reporting – John Momoh

He further stated that “even the BBC, came out with the outcome of its research that the so-called herdsmen/ farmers clashes is actually being aggravated by fake news”.

The Minister, therefore, stressed that the Federal Government will not back down in its resolve to ensure that fake news is curtailed in the country.

He also stated that the campaign against the trend will go round all media houses including print and electronic.

Fake News Adds To India’s Flood Torment

Indian residents look at the Shiva Temple submerged after the release of water from Idamalayar dam following heavy rains in Kochi on August 9, 2018. AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo has not donated $11 million to the Kerala flood disaster fund and there are no cracks in a key dam, but India’s fake news machine has been working overtime to fuel confusion and fear.

The Kerala state government and India‘s military have issued rare warnings about viral social media messages as they confront the aftermath of floods which have killed some 420 people.

The deluge of false news, videos and claims also come as the Indian government steps up pressure on Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms to act against fake news, blamed for inciting more than 20 lynchings in the past two months.

Some postings have been relatively harmless. Portuguese football superstar Ronaldo is often linked to big donations after a catastrophe that makes international headlines.

But Indian fact-checking websites like Boomlive.in have highlighted how many people are using Ronaldo’s supposed donation to criticise the federal government’s response to the crisis.

The central government has pledged almost $100 million in aid so far.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijaran issued a Twitter warning after a viral fake video said there were cracks in the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala’s Idukki district.

 Fake fatigues 

In the clip, an unidentified man, quoting a supposed friend in the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says that within three hours the surrounding area will be inundated.

“I wish to inform all that the state government will now take very strict action against such people,” Vijayan said.

The Indian Army, in turn, debunked a fake video where a man in military fatigues is seen talking about the relief operations and slamming the Kerala chief minister.

“Imposter wearing army combat uniform in video spreading disinformation about rescue and relief efforts,” the army tweeted.

“Every effort (being made) by all and Indian army to overcome this terrifying human tragedy,” it said, urging people to inform authorities about the suspicious news.

Joke news peddled by parody accounts on Twitter have also caused distress.

“Man refuses to accept a saffron life jacket, dies as a result,” read a headline on a story by Fault News which describes itself as a satirical portal.

Saffron is the most sacred colour for Hindus. They are the majority in Kerala, a state of 33 million people, and there is rivalry with Christian and Muslim communities.

In yet another instance, an image of a flooded car park at a Renault dealership in the main city of Kochi turned out to be an old photo.

Fake news is often deadly in India. Hoax messages about child kidnappers being seen in villages spread like wildfire on platforms such as WhatsApp, which boasts more than 200 million users in India.

Mobs quickly gather to target the alleged intruders. More than 20 innocent people have been killed across India since June.

Facebook is investigating intensively to counter fake news in India and other countries, hiring teams to track content and linking with fact-checking groups, its officials say.

The Indian government demanded that Facebook-owned WhatsApp clamp down on fake news in talks this week with its chief executive Chris Daniels.

Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was assured that WhatsApp “will soon take steps” to comply with the demands.

AFP

Malaysia Convicts First Person Under Fake News Law

 

 

A Malaysian court Monday handed a Danish man a one-week jail term for breaking a law against “fake news”, the first person to be punished under the controversial legislation.

The law, passed in early April, makes the deliberate dissemination of false information punishable by up to six years in jail and a hefty fine. It has sparked outrage from rights groups, who believe it is aimed at cracking down on dissent.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman, a 46-year-old of Yemeni descent, admitted making and posting on YouTube a video accusing emergency services of responding slowly after a Palestinian Hamas member was gunned down in Kuala Lumpur.

Fadi al-Batsh, said to be a rocket-making expert, was on his way to dawn prayers on April 21 when he was assassinated by motorbike-riding gunmen, a killing his family have blamed on Israel’s spy agency. The Jewish state has denied it was behind the murder.

The Dane, who did not have a lawyer and was wearing white robes and a green skullcap during a court appearance in Kuala Lumpur, said he was not aware of Malaysia’s laws.

“I agree I did a mistake because I didn’t ask what is the law of this country,” he said, speaking in English, his hands trembling.

– ‘Surprised, disappointed’ –

A clip of the video played in court, which lasted almost two minutes, showed him speaking in Arabic and complaining about what he claimed was the slow response of the police and ambulance service after the shooting.

Authorities have disputed his claims.

Judge Zaman Mohamad Noor sentenced him to a week in jail, including time already served since his April 23 arrest, and fined him 10,000 ringgit ($2,500). If he cannot pay the fine, then he will have to serve another month in jail, the judge said.

The Dane, who had been on a 10-day visit to Malaysia when the crime was committed, said he did not have enough money to pay the fine. He said he had three wives and six children.

The law banning fake news has sparked concern the government is seeking to crack down on criticism, particularly with a general election looming on May 9.

Leading independent news portal Malaysiakini last week mounted the first legal challenge against the legislation, arguing in the Kuala Lumpur High Court that it breaches constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech.

Malaysian legal reform group Lawyers for Liberty said they were “surprised and disappointed” that Monday’s prosecution went ahead even though the law was being challenged in court.

“Bringing criminal charges against a person is a serious matter,” said N. Surendran, an adviser to the group, in a statement.

“Surely where the legality of the law has been a question of national debate, enforcement should await the authoritative decision of the courts.”