In the race to elect new leaders into various positions in the 2023 general election, many political party members have created websites and blogs to campaign and push their preferred candidates to victory.
However, many also leverage opportunities like this as means to create sites and blogs to push propaganda and spread false information against opposition parties, thereby misleading gullible Nigerians who may believe the process, while trying to impress their candidate.
Experts who spoke to BusinessDay explained major ways to identify and ignore fake news websites and blogs ahead of the upcoming 2023 general election.
Darlington Okafor, CEO of Norwebs Design, said a fake website is designed in a way that the visitor hardly realises till he goes further to read the contents on the site.
He said: “The branding and design of the site will always look so good that you don’t even notice but the most obvious ones are; if the news site is not authoritative, then the reader needs to do a lot of fact checking before believing it. So fact-checking is a way to identify a fake website.
“Google fact-check tools allow you to search for stories and images that have already been debunked and help in debunking false and misleading information and this is a way to identify a fake website, if their information does not match.”
Statistics and data
Darlington said the reader should also go as far as checking if stories and information on the site are backed with statistics and data.
“If they don’t back up their reports with data or any concrete evidence to prove their point, then it is a way to tell the reader that it’s coming from a fake website.”
Dominic Anyanwu, a Cyprus-based online/ICT teacher, told BusinessDay that propagandists usually duplicate and fake original websites for people to believe that they are passing information through the original website which can be identified through the domain name on the address bar.
Anyanwu said: “You identify fake websites most times through the domain name, which is the unique identifier. In a website, you cannot have the same domain name and there are overwritten options which you can’t override.
“The best description of this option is when you want to save a number called Dominic on your phone and you have already saved a number with the particular name, then the phone will question if you want the new number to override the old, and when you click ‘yes’, the old one deletes. The website cannot allow you to delete an already existing website; so for you not to delete the formal number, you can add a dot or a number to differentiate it.”
“So a hacker or propagandist manipulating a website usually adds something on the domain name, maybe a dot to differentiate it from the original website which will need a very close look at the address bar to identify. Most times they succeed because many find it difficult to identify. This is one of the ways you can identify a fake website trying to be original,” he added.
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Oswald Maduka, an IT expert, said most websites serving legal purposes are accessed on a paid subscription while fake websites are mostly free because their only interest is to promote their candidate and tarnish the image of others.
“Despite the fact that most popular media also dish out free information on their website most times, there is also a need to be very careful of free articles coming from unknown websites. You subscribe to see the type of information you want but propagandists give it out mostly freely because they have some negative points to prove. They don’t need the money but rather want you to believe the story by all means. This is one way you recognise a fake site and host,” Maduka said.
Promoting a particular party
According to Anadi Nnamdi, a one-time campaign chairman for a governorship candidate, most of the fake websites push for a particular political party or work against rival organisations with a newly created and minimal website.
“They are not functioning to stand the test of time. If you evaluate them, you will see that they are promoting a particular political party, organisation or public figure while speaking against the other. They are created only for propaganda and do not dish out other information that can benefit the public,” he said.
Nnamdi said fake news websites also promote a lot of Photoshop, combining and renewing old photos and doing deep fake videos for people to believe.
“Most times, when they want to pass false information using pictures; they use a particular thread or mark to spot the particular place they want you to capture in the photo which takes only experts in the tech space to dictate, and most Nigerians believe almost everything captured by the media,” he said.
He said young tech developers who chose to work in the negative aspect of their career also play a major part in this by either creating fake designs for a particular party in exchange for money or to tarnish the image of the opposition party.