Home South African Lockdown sees a spike in fake news being shared in SA

Lockdown sees a spike in fake news being shared in SA

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Professor in the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University Lizette Rabe said in times that we currently find ourselves in, conspiracy theories and misinformation thrive.

The proliferation of "fake news" and misinformation on Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown are skewing the narrative on the disease. Picture: City of Cape Town/Supplied

Cape Town – The proliferation of “fake news” and misinformation on Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown are skewing the narrative on the disease and fight against it, communication and health experts say.

Several fake news messages have been doing the rounds the last couple of days. In one fake message it was said that President Cyril Ramaphosa was going to address the nation on Monday and reverse the ban on alcohol, while another claimed that founder of Gift of the Givers, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, had died.

On news of his alleged passing, Sooliman cautioned against gossip and the tarnishing of people’s reputation when forwarding unverified information.

Professor in the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University Lizette Rabe said in times that we currently find ourselves in, conspiracy theories and misinformation thrive.

“There’s a school of thought that argues we should not refer to fake news, because it gives fake the status of news, whereas it must simply be fake information or disinformation.”

Rabe said knowledge of technology and computers are not needed to create unverified information, which could be easily done using one’s smartphone. She said information should be checked for its plausibility and back to a credible source.

Director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town, Professor Herman Wasserman, said there are various reasons why people tend to share misinformation.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said fake news and misinformation of health news posed a threat to public health, hindering the public from getting vital information.

“Sadly, the belief in fake news stories about healthcare from people is unavoidable, because people do not have specialist medical knowledge, so if claims are put in a way that sounds like they make sense, why would they not believe them? This is not the time for bad jokes, nor a time to instil fear.”

For verified and accurate information visit the provincial landing page for coronavirus: www.westerncape.gov.za/coronavirus or contact the provincial hotline: 021 928 4102.

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Cape Argus