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Stop Facebook, Social Media Fake News - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Earlier, some journalists used to lie to their audience. Today, one audience can lie to another. This is the new situation with social media which became our source for information and where everybody has become a journalist.

We used to underestimate the effect of social media and its fabricated stories and images. We didn’t think it was much worthy because we believed it’s not credible or we thought it won’t have that much of an effect. This is not true. It turned out to have the ability and the methodology to create or change the public opinion.

Studies criticized fabricated news saying it had affected the convictions of voters in U.S. like the news that said Pope Francis supports Donald Trump which affected the opinion of his Catholic voters.

I think it is worse in our area. Though there might not be elections that could be affected by social media, it is more dangerous. It provides the mass with faulty convictions at times prevailed with provocation and struggles like no other. It used to be little harmless lies of jinn and wonders of nature.

Mark Zuckerberg, owner of Facebook; considered to be the most important platform in providing social communications around the world, promised that his company would provide a solution for this issue. He said that Facebook will soon have an additional feature to flag fake news and alert the provider. But what about Twitter? And what about WhatsApp which is widely spread?

Spreading fake news used to be part of entertainment and we used to believe it exists in countries of less credible media outlets. But it turned out to be an epidemic all over the world, inflicting the educated and the illiterate, the smart and the idiot, and societies full or poor with media outlets.

I don’t trust what Zuckerberg said; fake news and hoaxes on Facebook are much more than just 1%. Although I don’t have statistics about this, but a big percentage of the news that reache people through social media from unknown sources are misinformation or forged.

Despite repeated attempts to warn the public of fake news and all awareness campaigns asking them not to believe everything they receive and to refute every story, nothing can stop the tide. Many people believe what seems to them like real news. Fabricators are now skilled in formulating news and convincing the public with their credibility.

Governments, institutions, and individuals are now busy trying to correct or minimize damage done from conspiracy, tarnishing images of public figures, and the rise of faulty news created to form new opinions.

I believed we still have a long way before the new media outlets and primarily social media, provide more truthful information and less invented ones.

Credibility is one of the most important things that every newspaper or TV channel dream of, and there are media trademarks known for gaining the trust of the public, like BBC which created a spot for itself in people’s minds for over half a century.

Today, we are in a chaotic world created by the collapse of the old international media system. That is why – and because lies are prevailing over truths – I think credibility will make a comeback and become a demand. It will be create a distinctive place for whoever wants to be special in this crowded medium because the truth, according to journalism ethics, deserves it no matter how harmful or costly it might be.

Integrity means that people trust this media; it can create one and destroy another.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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