This study examined the perception of residents of Abuja on news credibility on social media. Seeing as social media involve users‟ generated content, the sources and reliability of these contents are sometimes uncertain. With the credibility problem associated with social media news, it is essential to determine the extent to which social media users judge the news content they receive from these social media. This study adopted a survey research design with a sample size of 384 respondents. Findings show that social media have become a major source of news among residents in Abuja because of the media‟ interactivity, connectivity, propinquity and speed of dissemination. Besides, over 89 percent use of social media mainly due to its ease. Nevertheless, the level of credibility of social network is still very small; an indication of low-level credibility of the social media. It is, therefore, essential that social media users ensure exchange of credible information and users should always crosscheck information obtained with other available sources before approval and possible second distribution.
1.1 Background study
The Internet has become integrated into our lives as an important, if not very essential tool for information and communication (Fallows, 2005). The large quantity of information available online combined with heavy reliance on the Internet by information seekers raise issues of the credibility or quality of information found online. Credibility in this context refers to the believability or reliability of some information or its source (Hovland, Janis, s& Kelley, 1953). A long history of research finds that credibility is a multifaceted concept with two primary dimensions: expertise and trustworthiness. Secondary factors affect credibility perceptions as well, including source attractiveness and dynamism, (o’keefe 2002). It is assumed that the credibility of a message is a receiver-based judgment which involves both objective judgments of the information quality or accuracy as well as subjective perceptions of the source trustworthiness, expertise, and attractiveness. Recent concerns about credibility of news or content found on social media stem from the fact that internet and digitization technologies both lower the cost and have increased access to information production and dissemination. The result is that more information from more sources is available and easily accessible currently than ever before due to the rise in the use of social media like twitter, Facebook, blogs, Whatsapp, yookos, Wechat,Instagram,Badoo.e.t.c. In the past, substantial costs of information production and dissemination on a mass scale limited the number of sources to only those with enough power and capital to justify and sell an information product. In the digital environment, however, nearly anyone can be an writer, as authority is no longer a requirement for content provision on the internet or social media. This obviously raises issues of credibility, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that many web sites operate without much supervision or editorial review. Unlike most traditional (i.e., print) publishing, information posted on the Web may not be subject to filtering through professional gatekeepers, and it often lacks traditional authority indicators such as author identity or established reputation there are no body or organization saddled with the responsibility of regulating their activities. Additionally, there are no universal standards for posting information online, and digital information may be easily altered, copied, misrepresented, or created anonymously under false pretenses.
The social media in Nigeria has become a steady source of news for Nigerians but the question of credibility of the contents from this various social media is the major bane of this study. Since the freedom the social media provides is being used as a tool most times against the government, and the rate at which content on social media spread is alarming, an example of how information spreads on social media is the #bringbackourgirls, using salt and water to cure Ebola the response generated by this trending topics was massive all thanks to the social media.
The credibility of news on social media is like a “border line” that mediates an organization and its strategic publics (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 2000), the public relations function essentially deals with the credibility of the organization and the communicated messages. Therefore, to manage organization-public communication strategically, credibility management is the key. In communication research, the credibility of the communicator has been widely suggested to influence the processing of the communicated content and the change of audience attitudes and beliefs (Burgoon& Hale, 1984; Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). The credibility of the channel/medium of communication affects the selective participation of the audience with the medium. Accordingly, individual audiences are paying closer attention to the media that they perceive to be credible. When individual audiences rely more on a certain communication medium for information seeking, they are likely to rate the medium more credible than other media.
Fast-developing technology, especially in the digital media environment, has empowered individuals and other stakeholder organizations to be creators of communication messages rather than remaining as the stagnant receiver of communication content (McClure, 2007). As a result, unlike the old days when organizations were often the only senders of messages, the communication process has increasingly become multidirectional, amplifying horizontal influences among individual public members themselves. Additionally, as the influence of emergent social media continues to increase, individual members of publics are starting to demand participatory communication with and from organizations. In either case, gaining credibility from publics is essential. Instead of being passive recipients of messages, publics are now active enough to select communication channels, especially when they care about an issue (Rubin, 2002). Unlike traditional media such as radio or television, the use of social media by individuals is increasingly becoming “instrumental” (Rubin, 1984), depending on their motivation for communication that is why you want to communicate (functionality), purposive or intended nature of communicating that is the channel you intend using to communicate (intentionality), communication choice (selectivity), and involvement with media . Given such audience selective and active media use, communication without the creation and cultivation of credibility for better public engagement or brand-building can be hardly effective (Holtz & Havens, 2009).
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