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Comedian Churchill’s ‘death’ and the rise of fake news

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Kenya’s King of comedy Daniel Ndambuki popularly know as just as Churchill was ‘killed’ today by an overzealous blogger. In what turned out to be a hoax, the amorphous website (www.news.states-tv.com) either faked the news to attract readership to boost hits or was grossly misinformed by a source.

According to reports published earlier today on the website, Mr Dambuki, who features as Mwalimu King’ang’i on the Classic 105 breakfast show, is supposed to have died on Mai Mahiu road after his car crashed when he hit a pothole and veered off the road, hitting a hard surface.

Mr Ndambuki clarified that he was alive and kicking and will be at the recording of his weekly Churchill Show at Two Rivers. He even joked about it, saying the government should get a job for the blogger who faked his death. Maina Kageni, his co-presenter on Classic FM, suffered same hoax in September 2015 when a Tanzania newspaper reported that the celebrity had died in a road accident in Dar es Salaam.

The website even explains how volunteers helped pull out the comedian dead from the car wreckage.  The fake news caused a stir on social media as Churchill’s fans went in shock. The website has no contacts page or any sign of its location.

Journalism in fake news

In the internet era, an arm of journalism that focuses on fake news is emerging. This trend of fake news is more prominent in the US, Europe and Asian countries. While some fake news is produced purposefully by bloggers seeking to make money from advertising, false information can also arise from misinformed social media posts by regular people that are seized on and spread through a hyper blogosphere.

How the website reported the ‘death’ which was picked up by other bloggers.

Fake news websites deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation to drive web traffic inflamed by social media, Wikipedia notes. These sites are distinguished from news satire as fake news articles are usually fabricated to deliberately mislead readers, and profit through clickbait.

The New York Times noted in a December 2016 article that fake news had previously maintained a presence on the internet and within tabloid journalism in years prior to the 2016 US election. Prior to the election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, fake news had not impacted the election process to such a high degree.

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“Subsequent to the 2016 election,” Wikipedia says, “the issue of fake news turned into a political weapon between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; due to these back-and-forth complaints, the definition of fake news as used for such polemics became more vague.”

Attracting clicks from readers

Intelligence agencies often use fake news to influence elections or divert public attention. But one window into how the meat in fake sausages gets ground can be found in the internet economy, according to a report in the New York Times, where satire produced in Canada can be taken by a recent college graduate in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and presented as real news to attract clicks from credulous readers in the United States. One fake news writer said his only incentive was to make money from Google ads by luring people off Facebook pages and onto his websites.

By some estimates, bogus news stories appearing online and on social media had an even greater reach in the final months of the presidential campaign than articles by mainstream news organizations.

Since then, internet giants like Facebook and Google have engaged in soul searching over their roles in disseminating false news. Google announced that it would ban websites that host fake news from using its online advertising service, while Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, outlined some of the options his company was considering, including simpler ways for users to flag suspicious content.


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BT Reporter
BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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