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Understanding How Fake News is shared Towards 2024 General Elections – Kwabena Adu Koranteng Writes

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Kwabena Adu Koranteng
Kwabena Adu Koranteng

Creation and distribution of fake news in the run up to the 2024 general elections would be playing a crucial role in heightening tension in the political community.

It is therefore essential for the people of Ghana to understand how fake news or false information is created and distributed or shared.
The role of technology in promoting fake news in a bid to misinform and dis-inform the general public would be felt in the 2024 general elections and there is therefore the need to initiate measures to curb it.

Before I move to the ways of curbing the spread of fake news through disinformation and misinformation, I will move to what fake news is, what misinformation and disinformation are and the causes and effects.

Misinformation is false or inaccurate information getting the facts wrong. Disinformation is false information which is deliberately intended to mislead intentionally misstating the facts.
The spread of misinformation and disinformation has affected our ability to improve political stability, address climate change, and maintain a stable democracy among others.

Disinformation poses a serious risk to the general public. It is a danger of a particularly treacherous nature and leads the voting population wayward to vote against their interest and wellbeing. It is also flippant, easy to manufacture because it does not come from the hardness of truth and also serves as a weapon against political and economic stability.
Politicians and influencers, having realized this, have turned disinformation into an art form, and tool of facility. They deploy it against the unwary and the gullible, among whom are many.
It is in this light that journalists have a duty to work hard to dispel misinformation and disinformation, to guide the public to unbiased and un-nuanced news that would lead the people to make wise and informed decisions.

Research suggests that detecting false information is difficult. When we encounter new information, we tend to focus on understanding it and deciding what to do next, rather than evaluating it for accuracy. It takes effort to compare new information with what we already know; when new information is false but plausible, we can learn it as fact. Several factors may increase our susceptibility to misinformation.

People are more likely to believe misinformation if it comes from in-group sources rather than out-group ones, or if they judge the source as credible. The emotional content of misinformation plays a role as well: People are more likely to believe false statements that appeal to emotions such as fear and outrage. They are also more likely to believe misinformation that paints opponents in a negative light than they are to believe misinformation that is negative about their own in-group. Finally, people are more likely to believe repeated information, even when it contradicts their prior knowledge. These findings suggest that it is important to stop misinformation early.

Susceptibility to misinformation shows individual differences based on experience. For example, educational attainment, analytical reasoning, and numeracy skills can increase resistance to misinformation, while anxiety increases a person’s likelihood of believing it. Older adults may be better at identifying misinformation than younger adults, yet older adults are also more likely to see and share false information on social media.

belief in misinformation does not always lead to changes in a person’s attitudes, intentions, or behaviors. In other words, what we believe does not always translate into what we do. Many of these studies were conducted in laboratory and other controlled settings, so more research is needed in real-world contexts to determine the full impact of misinformation on behavior and health.

How and why does fake news spread?
According to the American Physiological Association exposure to misinformation increases the odds that people will believe it, which in turn increases the odds that they will spread it. At the same time, people do not necessarily need to believe misinformation in order to spread it; people may share information they know is false to signal their political affiliation, disparage perceived opponents, or accrue social rewards. Psychological factors contribute significantly to this process: People are more likely to share misinformation when it aligns with personal identity or social norms, when it is novel, and when it elicits strong emotions.
Misinformation spreads differently on social media than on legacy media such as television, radio, and newspapers. Mainstream news outlets tend to have robust safeguards in place to prevent and correct false claims, but several unique features of social media encourage viral content with low oversight. Rapid publication and peer-to-peer sharing allow ordinary users to distribute information quickly to large audiences, so misinformation can be policed only after the fact (if at all). “Echo chambers” bind and isolate online communities with similar views, which aids the spread of falsehoods and impedes the spread of factual corrections. This problem disproportionately affects individuals who consume content from conservative political sources.

How to curb fake news
Journalists and Media practitioners must be trained to scrutinize firsthand information, check and authenticate their sources. The sources of the information must be verified. They should check and cross check their information to be sure that they are factual and truthful before publishing or airing them. The general public must also be vigilant and not accept any information that come their way. They must listen to only credible media houses or TV stations that churn out only credible, factual and accurate information.

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