By Anja van den Berg
The internet brings with it a myriad of constructive qualities. Unfortunately, it can also be a tool for the harmful. Fake news has the potential to wreak havoc. Fake news is spread to create fear and cause panic. Sharing it can result in people making misinformed decisions that can be harmful to their lives.
The South African government has warned its citizens against spreading fake news and announced that anyone who creates or spreads fake news is liable to prosecution.
The disaster management regulations of 2020 distinguish between three different types of fake news:
- Disinformation – information that is not true and is intentionally created to harm a person, social group, organisation, or country to influence opinions or twist the truth
- Misinformation – inaccurate information, like a game or broken telephone. News that spread via the grapevine is likely to change as people forget certain facts. As people spread news based on hearsay, the cycle of misinformation perpetuates.
- Malinformation – refers to twisting accurate information or intentionally sharing information that is personal or private
Here are nine questions to ask yourself before you click “send” and unknowingly spread unnecessary panic by sharing fake news:
- What is the source of the content?
Verify the source. If it is a voice note, verify that the person speaking reveals their identity and occupation or authority to share that news.
- What are the credentials of the person who produced the news?
Can you verify the qualifications of the person who put the news piece together? Noteworthy and trustworthy information will be shared by people in positions of authority.
- When was this news piece produced?
Search on the internet for the keywords in the video, text or audio to ensure that this is not old news being circulated or edited to change the context.
- Is the mainstream media covering it?
Mainstream media will cover breaking news.
- Have you consulted a fact-checker website?
Consult a verified fact-checking website to check if the news is real. Some of the best-known fact-checking websites include:
- Fact Check
- BBC Reality Check
- Is the photo or video legitimate and used in context?
Verify the legitimacy of a photo or video at Berify or TinEye reverse image search. These search engines use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata, or watermarks.
The best way to avoid spreading fake news is to make sure that you read or listen to reports from a verified source. Make sure that you can find the original source of information before you share the information with anyone. For example, Covid-19 updates can be found on the World Health Organisation’s website or the Department of Health’s website. Unfollow pages or people who insist on sharing fake news.
East Coast Radio: https://www.ecr.co.za/lifestyle/family/nine-ways-ensure-you-are-not-sharing-fake-news/
Centre For Academic Excellence: https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/library/fakenews/protectagainstfn