What is exactly fake newsand why has it been such a problem these days? Firstly, according to Cambridgedictionary, fake news is “false stories that appear to be news, spread on theinternet or using other media, usually created to influence political views oras a joke”. In our current time, the riseof fake news has been detrimental to the people it targets and to the newsorganisation it is disguised under. “The resulting paranoia led people toaccuse once-trusted sources, includingThe New York Times, of carrying fake news. And social media is a core part ofthe problem” (Aljazeera.com,2017). Also, with social media platforms, fake newshas been much easier to share around and has allowed anyone to basically createand disseminate information.
Additionally, fake news also had an enormousimpact on the 2016 US presidential elections whereby many fake storiespublished were taken seriously by news outlets such as ABC News and Fox News.This just goes to show how easily manipulative fake news is. We will look athow the fake news phenomenon has caused problems around the world and who ithas affected.The first case of “fakenews comes from Germany, where reports came out about a 13-year-oldRussian-German girl known as Lisa F who had been raped by refugees from theMiddle East. The story received extensive coverage on Russian andGerman media who reported the allegations that she had been abducted on her wayto school and gang-raped. The attack turned out to have been fabricated, asBerlin’s chief of police was quick to point out” (Connolly,2016). Additionally,”a TV interview given by a woman identified as the girl’s aunt claimed that thegirl was raped by numerous men over the 30-hour period while she was missing.
The report that sparked the protests was spread on social media and has so farbeen watched more than a million times on Facebook” (McGuinness,2016). Through this story, wecan see that the Russian media was the main reason for the uproar and breakoutof demonstrations against Muslims and refugees. Moreover, the community wherethe girl lived was mainly made up of Russian speaking migrants, where thisstory fuelled anti-migrant protests and sentiment. It even went as far as theRussian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accusing the German government of”covering up the case” which raised tensions between the two nations.
Even whenthe case was cleared up, the fake news started which mentioned how she was gang-raped and beaten for 30 hours by southernlooking asylum seekers. Overall, this story had a massive negative effect onthe refugees who came to Germany as they faced attacks and experienced a lot hatetowards them. This fake story also started a diplomatic row between Russia andGermany as the Kremlin tried to underminethe German response to the story and was intentionally trying to cause trouble.The second example of thefake news problem comes from the Middle East and from Qatar to be exact.
Conspiracy theories and propaganda are not a new thing in the Middle East, asmany governments in the region thrived on them to keep adversaries confused andcitizens deceived. However, with the internet, fake news and disinformation have just gotten much easier to spread andcause more harm. The now six-month-oldstandoff started when “the world took notice of the conflict in June, whenBahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) closed their borderswith their tiny Gulf neighbour in response to comments attributed to the Qatariemir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani” (Salisbury,2017).
The conflict started whenhackers gained access to the website of Qatar News Agency (QNA) and posted false stories about Israel andIran and linked fake comments praising the two countries to Qatar’s monarch,Sheikh Tamim. This led to chaos around the region and even when theQatari government stated that this was a hack, the Arab countries still publishednegative news about Qatar and accused it of supporting terrorism and militantgroups and being tolerant with Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran. In addition, the social media platform of QNAwas hacked and their twitter account was used to publish several tweets callingfor the removal of the boycotting countries ambassadors.
“Byearly June, the hashtag “???_????????_??_???#”—”Cut relations with Qatar”—wastrending on Arabic-language Twitter”(Salisbury,2017). Furthermore, this, in turn, led to QNA shutting down its site anddeleting the tweets. However, the damage had already been done and by that timethe countries of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cut all ties withQatar and imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions against it. As it can be seen, thefake news that was posted on the websiteled to these problems which until now haven’t been resolved between the Gulf neighbours. Qatar has lost a great deal ofmoney due to the sanctions imposed upon it by the blockading countries who aremajor exporters to the tiny Gulf state.Furthermore, the state airline, Qatar Airways was banned from using the airborders of the four countries which increased flight times and fuel consumptionand led to higher ticket prices to recover costs. Nonetheless, it is believedthat investigations that were carried out after the hack took place, showedthat the attack on Qatari media was coordinated by its neighbours to damage itsreputation and warn the US by showing them that “Qatar was a rogue state incahoots with Iran and a supporter of terrorism.
Initially,at least, Trump seems to have taken the bait, going as far as to suggest theblockade was his idea” (Salisbury,2017).In conclusion, fake newsis a very problematic issue which seems to be getting worse day by day. Thefake news phenomenon has caused irreversible damage to countries, people, andcorporations, and with the help of social media, it has just become easier tospread lies than the truth to millions of people online.
Additionally, the factthat it can be state-backed makes the prospect much more damaging and dangerousto the receiving end as can be seen from my two examples. “Unfortunately, welive in a time where the level of analysis that is done with the data isdisregarded, not because it’s filled with fake news, but because it conflictswith deeply held fake conclusions. Such conclusions cause us to make extremelypoor pronouncements about a wide range of public policy issues. Until we are willingto fess up to our distorted false conclusions, all the true news in the worldmight as well be fake” (Patrick, 2017).