Fake News

Fake News

Most of us are consuming much higher than normal social media content during lockdown. However, dissecting fact from fiction in this time has been nearly impossible as we are inundated with Whatsapp and Facebook messages sent from educated friends and family who are doctors and scientists and medical health workers and experts of disease. And, we are meant to trust their opinions, right?

It seems, the creators of fake news sites are becoming even more savvy in their thinking and designing of fake news websites and social media communication platforms. And we, as curious readers, isolated and searching for information on how to cope with this epidemic, are in fact at the forefront of enforcing the negative impact of fake news.

Last week, transport Minister Fikile Mbalula laid charges of “fake news” and “misinformation” against celebrity Somizi Mhlongo after Mhlongo claimed that the minister had told him about the Covid-19 lockdown extension before the official announcement on Thursday evening.

The South African government has however now gazetted new laws under the Disaster Management Act to combat the sharing of fake news. A fine or a six-month prison term can be imposed for spreading fake news about the coronavirus. Regulation 11(5)(c) of the act classifies fake news as “publishing any statement through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about measures by the government to address Covid-19”.

So how would I know if a mobile message, website or social media post is fake news?

Always question the source of information, check on official websites and check whether an official organisation’s logo is used, look for poor English or repeated spelling/grammar mistakes, watch out for fake accounts mimicking the real thing (real pages and websites are often “verified”) and beware of over encouragement to share a viral message.

Lastly, think. If a message or story confirms a more dramatic certainty or more extreme argument than other stories, it is probably fake news. The purpose of fake news is to heighten anxiety or emotion.

If you are unsure, and you have not checked the source of the information, do not share the message. Just as dangerous as sharing the Covid-19 disease, so too, is sharing fake news surrounding it.  Therefore, let’s together flatten the fake news curve.

By Alet Smit – Attorney & Group Head of Marketing

For lockdown regulations:


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