As South Africa’s politics gets dirty with a number of killings and unverified claims by opposition parties, South Africans are warned against being misled by fake news by social media.
Media experts warn South Africans to be on the lookout for fake news channels, as a number of political social media posts over the weekend come from accounts that closely resemble legitimate media groups.
This call came after series of tweets from accounts parading as Radio 702, the Sunday Times and the Huffington Post SA went out over the weekend, slamming finance minister Pravin Gordhan of being a shill for “White Monopoly Capital”.
This is not the first of its kind, says media experts who say some so-called fake news are all over the country with with many websites cropping up over the past year pushing sensational and completely inaccurate news stories, often damaging those mentioned.
Businesstech gave examples of fake South African news stories to include a R80, 000 restaurant bill that was attributed to President Jacob Zuma, as well as a false report that 80,000 ballot papers were found pre-marked for the ANC ahead of the 2016 elections.
“What is going on here? It all points to attempts to deflect us from one truth: Zuma, the president of the ANC, has handed over running of this country to the Gupta family,” says Justice Malala who spoke on the matter.
Speaking further on this, a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson warned South Africans not to give in to media posts with very catchy headings that has no truth in them.
Gibson touched some media posts such as Mayor Solly Msimanga’s visit to Taiwan; Time magazine‘s article which identified SA among the ten biggest threats to the world this year; and The Economist’s article enlisting SA as one of the countries having the second worst education system (74 out of 76) in the OECD (Organisation for economic co-operation and development)- Gibson said these headlines are confusing and thus not reliable.
About Msimanga’s trip to Taiwan, Gibson said Monyela, spokesperson for the department of international Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) who first declared the trip as violating the One China policy of the government and the ANC government who have accused the mayor of treason, are yet to explain to SA why this is so “when it appeared that our department of trade and industry and the minister are constantly promoting ties with Taiwan”
“I hope that in 2017, readers, viewers and listeners will be wary of misinformation, of propaganda and of manufactured outrage and will attempt always to get the real story,” he concluded.
How to Identify Fake News
Fake news can be incredibly damaging to person’s personality and that of the country’s reputation. Such news is said to have played a massive role in the spread of inaccurate information during the 2016 presidential elections in the United States.
Media Monitoring Africa has appealed to South Africans and South African media alike to take responsibility in ensuring that falsehoods are not spread, and to be critical of any news that is shared online.
To spot out fake news readers are encouraged to:
- Beware of overly sensational content, especially those that predict a future disaster, a major discovery, or breaking a scandal that seems too good to be true,
- Double check the names mentioned or the titles of the reports or journals said to be used in sourcing the information.
- Check other news sources if a story seems suspicious, see if other news sites are carrying similar information.
- Check for disclaimers on ‘about’ pages – some websites state explicitly that they are ‘satire’ sites.
- See if the Twitter or Facebook account is the true account – check for verification, previous posts and history of the page.