Understanding Social Media’s Role in Propagating Falsehood in Conflict Situations: Case of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis

Kingsley Lyonga Ngange, Moki Stephen Mokondo

Abstract


Social media have been welcomed as important tools that contribute to satisfying the daily information needs of citizens in today’s global society. To many, they serve as an open and alternative source of information especially where the conventional media fail to play their role of serving the public’s interest first. Notwithstanding, there have been serious and legitimate concerns about the spread of fake news over social media especially during the 2016 US presidential elections (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). This coincided with the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis (CAC) in which the Cameroon government blamed social media users for spreading false information about the crisis to the extent that government shut down the Internet in the two affected Anglophone regions of the country for 93 days in 2017. This article therefore, examines the content of information (graphics, audios, videos, texts) posted on two widely used social media platforms (WhatsApp and Facebook) during the Anglophone Crisis, in order to understand how falsehood is propagated especially during crisis situations. A qualitative approach to analyse data of falsehood during the crisis was used and three major ways were identified through which falsehood was propagated. Principally, social media activists used computer software to distort pictures and superimpose content that depict the messages they wanted to pass across. They also spread rumours using texts, audio clips and distorted videos. The conclusion is that social media have been awash with falsehood in the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis. The major recommendation therefore, is that users of social media should make efforts to verify the authenticity of information obtained from such media before consuming and disseminating to others. The December 2014 Law on Terrorism in Cameroon treats such offences seriously and defaulters are severely punished with heavy jail sentences and fines.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/smc.v7i2.4525

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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