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Nigerian govt warns media, stakeholders over usage of ‘deep fake news’ against officials

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My ministry will create over two million jobs in three years —Minister Lai

The Federal Government has raised the alarm over the use of what it called “deep” fake news to attack its officials.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, raised the alarm at a conference on Saturday, in Sal Island, Cape Verde.

Ripples Nigeria gathered that the minister was in Sal Island for the 64th Conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) – Conference for Africa and the second edition of UNWTO Global Tourism Investment Forum.

According to Mohammed, fake news had worsened by becoming a weapon for naysayers to attack the government and its officials.

“As a matter of fact, Nigerians should know that we have graduated from ordinary fake news to ”deep” fake news. The danger of deep fake news is that it is difficult to differentiate fake news from real news.

“This is because purveyors of deep fake news would take a story, be it a video or a photograph, and make it look real.

“They will take videos of what is happening in other lands, doctor them and freely circulate them as what is really happening in Nigeria. Ditto photographs.

“News stories are even worse because they embellish such fake stories with quotes and videos and even quote government officials as if they are real.

“This becomes more difficult for unsuspecting Nigerians to know the difference between fake news and real information,” he said.

The minister noted that at the beginning, purveyors of deep fake news were largely unknown online publications.

Read also: Nigerian govt uncovered 476 fake news sites – Mohammed

He, however, expressed disappointment that some otherwise reputable publications and some mainstream media had joined the bandwagon.

Giving instances of deep fake news, the minister recalled the aftermath of the interview by Channels Television of Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom and a retired Navy Commodore, Kunle Olawunmi.

“After the interview, online and traditional newspapers were awash with stories that the station had been shut, while some said that the anchor people had been arrested.

“Some even went to demonstrate the purported arrest of the anchor people, but till today, the station is still open.

“These people have no shame because they know from the beginning that they are telling deep fake news, they have no credibility and can destroy anybody at will with their weapon,” he said.

The minister also recalled his recent official trip to Washington to engage with think tanks and global media outfits, during which a particular online publication twisted the purpose of the trip, claiming that he went with his aide to beg Twitter.

The minister said the fake news was made deep by the online publication by quoting the airline they travelled on, their seat number, and even video clips showing them in the aircraft.

“This is an example of deep fake news because any unsuspecting Nigerians will believe it is true. Of course, they knew they were telling lies because our itinerary and programmes in the US were not hidden, but reported daily by social media, radio, newspapers, and television.

“Even that same online newspaper carried stories of our engagements, yet it kept saying we went to the US to beg Twitter and we were shunned,” he said.

He reiterated the resolve of the federal government to regulate social media, which had become a major tool for propagating fake news.

“Anytime the fake news purveyors strike, they strengthen our resolve further to act on sanitising the social media. By their conduct, they are showing the world that we are ripe in our pursuit of sanitising the social media,” he said.

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