by Kimberly Flanagan

If you are on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any form of social media, you have most likely been inundated with videos, voice notes, and pictures that have seemed too good or too bad to be true and in most cases they probably are.

Fake news is real and it is unlikely that it will stop anytime soon.

When I say “Fake News” I don’t mean satirical content that is meant to make you laugh or something that is meant to make light of a serious situation. I’m talking about content that makes you cringe and scares you. Content that seems legit and that is meant to incite violence. Misinformation, something that is meant to discredit someone or cause others to harm or cause panic.

In the current time we are living in, with technology and the growth of 4IR, spreading videos and pictures and anything else is very easy and because of the state of our country, it’s important that as South Africans, that we discern what is true and what is not.

Spreading fake videos or unverified pictures and content is highly dangerous and can cause panic amongst society. Sometimes the material that people share on social media is old footage or outdated and has nothing to do with the current state of things. Take for example the recent Xenophobic attacks. I’ve personally seen and come across many pieces of material that have either nothing to do with South Africa or material that is old.

These are things people are sensitive about and just simply sharing and broadcasting it, is irresponsible.

If you want to check the verification of the content, do your research, check if there has been anything reported about it on the news.

It’s very difficult to know whether or not something you see on social media is fake or not, especially when it comes to videos but if you are not 100 percent sure about the authenticity of the video or picture and it has the potential to incite panic or violence, DO NOT SHARE IT!

That is the first and basic rule.

Yes, we can’t stop everyone on our social media platforms to share content but if it reaches you and you are questioning it, let it stop with you.

If you want to check the verification of the content, do your research, check if there has been anything reported about it on the news.

The other day someone I work within the newsroom said that society doesn’t like good news. I personally thought that that’s why it’s so easy to spread fake news with a negative connotation.

So if you’re one of those people who constantly share material on social media without verifying it or sharing material with a graphic and negative nature, please stop. Besides the fact that it is irresponsible and dangerous, as someone who works in a newsroom, I constantly shake my head and roll my eyes when I see people spreading fake stories. It gets tiring. People are quick to believe anything.

Below are some reasons why you should not share things you haven’t verified:

  • If someone is implicated in a fake news story, it can damage their reputation if it turns out that they are innocent.
  • Fake news incites violence and anger amongst society and sometimes, we as people become angry with the wrong people.
  • It takes attention away from the actual problem.
  • It incites mob justice and mob violence and sometimes that can lead to fatal results for innocent people.

An article on News24 gives the following tips on how to spot fake news:

  1. Check the credibility of the publisher.
  2. Pay attention to the writing of the material.
  3. Are there any news outlets reporting on the story or the material.
  4. Visit a fact-checking website.
  5. Look for quotes.
  6. Has this person or news site published any similar stories?
  7. Is the story just a little bit too strange?

Here are a few fact-checking websites you can visit if you are unsure about something shared:

  1. Africa Check
  2. PolitiFact
  3. org
  4. com

So please, for the sake of news authenticity, stop sharing material and stories that you have not verified.

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