FULL TEXT: Ali Muhammad Ali’s Speech at Army Security Summit in Abuja

It gives me great pleasure to be invited to this distinguished gathering, and even to speak on an issue that has attracted such absorbing interest: the management of news in the face of the onslaught by the triple evils of infodemics, misinformation and fake news.

Today, the media globally plays a very important role in practically every aspect of our lives. There is literarily now no international boundary to knowledge as the media provides the platform to spread information, news as well as entertainment from one part of the world to the other with just a click.

In an increasingly shrinking global space marked by exponential growth in media convergence and artificial intelligence, the dampners of infomedics, misinformation and fake news have all but assumed lives of their own.

This development rightly ought to be a source of concern and it is gratifying that the Nigerian Army Resource Centre and its partner, the Development Specs Academy, have given this issue more than cursory attention.

From the topic, ” Professional News Management as panacea for Infodemics, Misinformation and Fake news, ” our task is clearly well laid out. And that is as communication specialists, how do we use our news management skills to counter the toxic news content being daily pushed out to avid consumers in the public space. Even stretched further, how do private and public institutions manage or contend with misinformation or fake news about them?

If management of news is simply deliberately influencing the presentation of information emanating from the news media, we will need to meander through the laborious labyrinths of infodemics, misinformation and fake news to understand why this tripod of malfeasance have continued to be a recurring decimal on our country’s media landscape.

The term, “infodemics” was coined as a blend of information and epidemic in 2003 by journalist and political scientist David Rothkopf in a Washington Post column, when the world’s attention was on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What did Rothkopf actually mean by Infodemics? According to him, it is ” …a few facts, mixed with fear, speculation and rumor, amplified and relayed swiftly worldwide by modern information technologies, have affected national and international economies, politics and even security in ways that are utterly disproportionate with the root realities. It is a phenomenon we have seen with greater frequency in recent years—not only in our reaction to SARS, for example, but also in our response to terrorism and even to relatively minor occurrences such as shark sightings.”

Infodemics, however, gained traction in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when it was used to describe that anomalous situation where there was an abundance of false information dominating the public space and being spread in harmful way.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains that infodemics are an excessive amount of information about a problem, which makes it difficult to identify a solution. They can spread misinformation, disinformation and rumours during a health emergency. It can hamper an effective public health response and create confusion and distrust among people.

At that time, WHO was forced to raise the alarm that the COVID-19 related “infomation epidemic ” being spread was just as dangerous as the virus itself!

As we have come to realise, the genie of infodemics is out of the bottle and now no longer within the precincts of the health sector. It is now dominating our national life where purveyors of misinformation and fake news turn little facts on their heads to achieve a predetermined end.


Misinformation is simply wrong information which is given to someone, often in an attempt to make them believe something which is not true. It can also be false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally, often due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.

It can take many forms, including text, images or videos, and can be disseminated through various channels such as social media, news outlets or word of mouth.

Misinformation certainly can have grave consequences.

These include but not limited to

  1. Fueling social unrest, violence, and even genocide, as people are misled into believing harmful stereotypes or conspiracy theories. (Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which between 500,000 and 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.)
  2. Spreading harmful beliefs and behaviors such as anti-vaccination sentiments or unsafe health practices.(Current insidious campaign against the HPV vaccine in some quarters in the false belief that it causes infertility.)
  3. Eroding trust in institutions, media, and experts, leading to a breakdown in social cohesion and the rise of conspiracy theories.( Attempts for example to impugn on the integrity of the election management body, INEC, by politicians and their social media goons in the aftermath of the 2023 general elections.
  4. Deepening political polarisation by reinforcing biases and prejudices, making it difficult to find common ground.( Exploiting the country’s faut lines of religion and ethnicity to further stratify the nation. )
  5. Causing financial losses, as people make investment decisions or purchase products based on false information. (Multilevel marketing, network marketing or pyramid selling which have seen many people’s life savings go up in smoke.)
  6. Damaging one’s reputation and credibility, making it harder to be taken seriously in the future.( The multitudes of defamation cases speak to this.)


Wikipedia, the online dictionary, describes fake news as false or misleading information (misinformation, including disinformation, propaganda and hoaxes) presented as news. Fake news often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity.

Although fake news has a long history dating back to the 1890s when sensational reportage by newspapers was the vogue, it is randomly used today as any form of false information or even unedifying report which attacks the reputation of high profile persons in society.

With the advent of social media, fake news has blossomed while disinformation and propaganda have received new impetus. All these are used to alter, shape and manipulate people to promote sectarian and political interests, attempt to entrench and exploit attitudes and conflicts as well as to elevate divisive politics.

In many instances, the media had exploited ethnicity and religion to undermine Nigeria’s democracy and even threaten national security. Today, Nigeria is worse for it, especially in our country where gullibility is so high.

The consequences of fake news in the light of our contemporary history have been tragic, to say the least.

Let us use the October 2020 #EndSARS violence which raged in  parts of the country as a case study.

In two weeks of rage, 57 civilians as well as six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, 196 policemen injured, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations razed.

Some 269 private/corporate facilities were also burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted.

Eight medium security custodial centres in six states (Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo and Ebonyi) were attacked while 1,957 inmates were set free, with 31 staff injured.

This needless violence was initiated and orchestrated by purveyors of fake news and misinformation who latched on to the efficacy of the social media as a tool of mass mobilisation.

There were instances of how purveyors of fake news used the social media to guide arsonists and looters to certain public and private properties while pictures of persons, including some celebrities, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated.

Some of those who were reported killed , however, came out to refute such claims.

By the time the dust settled, about N20 billion had been lost to the orgy in just 14 days.

In some cases as the #ENDSARS violence amplified, a report with false or harmful information would have done its damage by the time a response is made. Not responding in mitigation efforts, however, would make a bad situation worse.

If what we have endured are the often negative and sometimes tragic outcomes of infodemics, misinformation and fake news, how can communication specialists, some of whom are gathered here, sustainably mitigate the damage wrought by adversarial report as well as manage information in a way that will promote the public good?


  1. First, we must uphold truthfulness and accuracy in combating infodemics, misinformation and fake news if we are to build trust with the public. The authenticity of a message reinforces that copy or communication. When people perceive the message to be authentic, they tend to believe it the more and show understanding. Genuineness or sincerity is critical in winning the people over.

For example, through sustained information outflows by certain institutions (Army, Police, first emergency responders, Lagos government etc,) the Lekki Gate false narratives during the #EndSARS protest was debunked as a ” massacre without bodies!”

  1. We must also be timely in countering misinformation.
    This entails striking a balance between speedily responding and the volume of information available. A burning issue should not be allowed to fester before we react although there are times when silence is said to be golden until an auspicious time when a valid response would be desirable.
  2. Because misinformation and fake news are crafted to be sensational, we must also craft our responses in an interesting manner that would attract attention given the crowded media space and the competition for attention.
  3. We must also work with friendly media influencers who are credible and have the capacity to push out copies which grab media attention.
  4. Regular communication through constant engagements is critical, especially for institutions of state. They must always talk to the people and not the people begging them to react to issues as they break. In effect, we must be proactive rather than reactive in communication.
  5. Institutions of state in particular must promote digital literacy among their communications professionals, especially now that the media landscape is constantly in a state of flux.

As I close, let me admonish us as communication specialists to be innovative and refrain from a one-size-fits all communication approach.

Artificial intelligence technologies for example, with their capability to generate convincing fake texts, images, audio and videos (often referred to as ‘deepfakes’), present significant difficulties in distinguishing authentic content from synthetic creations. This capability lets wrongdoers automate and expand disinformation.

This is why it is essential for communication specialists to critically evaluate information and sources in order to mitigate damage done as well as promote a safer and more informed public discourse.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Ali Muhammad Ali,
Managing Director/CEO

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