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Fake News Can Cause Third World War, Says Wole Soyinka: Wants It Criminalized

File photo: Wole Soyinka
| PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has said that fake news has the capacity to cause the Third World War and insisted that it should be regarded and treated as a crime.

He said that the way things are going, Nigeria may turn out as the centre of the spread of such fake news across the world.

Professor Soyinka, who spoke among other panelists at a symposium on fake news, organized in Abuja today, Wednesday by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News said: “people do not understand what is like to have things attributed to you which you know nothing about.

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 three 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.

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“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 acknowledgement.

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