The Sunday News
MATTHEW Gentzkow in his study “Trends in the Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media” (2018), says in recent years, there has been widespread concern that misinformation on social media is damaging societies and democratic institutions.
He says a recent study argues that false stories remain a problem on Facebook (and even twitter) even after changes to the platform’s news feed algorithm in early 2018 (Newswhip 2018). Many articles that have been rated as false by major fact-checking organisations have not been flagged in Facebook’s system, and two major fake news sites have seen little or no decline in Facebook engagements since early 2016.
Media commentators have argued that efforts to fight misinformation through fact-checking are “not working” (Levin 2017) and that misinformation overall is “becoming unstoppable” (Ghosh and Scott 2018).
The phenomenon of fake news has decimated social media platforms, yet some people continue being gullible and excitable by whatever is thrown at them. Political opportunists and pure criminals have taken advantage of people’s desire to know what is happening around them through cheaper channels like social media by feeding them poison, some of which borders around being a national security threat.
We therefore encourage Zimbabweans to take heed of wise counsel from Acting President Constantino Chiwenga to refrain from abusing social media. Last week, he castigated abuse of social media to cause panic buying of fuel and other basic commodities. Officiating at the launch of the second phase of the centre pivot irrigation facility under the special maize programme at Farnley Farm in Chegutu, the Acting
President also took a swipe at wholesalers and retailers wantonly increasing prices of basic commodities that has resulted in the suffering of ordinary people.
“We are currently facing problems with fuel and some are now hoarding the commodity. There are some who are now abusing social media to exacerbate the situation, resulting in people rushing to stock the commodity. We should avoid that because there is no journey that does not have obstacles.” He called on Zimbabweans to instead use social media for nation building.
Fake news is a neologism often used to refer to fabricated news. This type of news, found in traditional news, social media or fake news websites, has no basis, in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate. Some scholars describe fake news as being written and published usually with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/ or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership.
An online publication, theconversation.com, adds; “In our view, social media companies need to move beyond their “free market” foundations. Like any other set of institutions essential to our social infrastructures and economies, they should develop methods to provide the transparency and public accountability necessary to address the social ills their platforms have enabled.
“Transparency is the best way to drive out hate speech and fake news. Without it, customers won’t have confidence in the quality of the information they receive, or the goodwill of information providers. Social media companies need to be more responsive to the needs of society as a whole, and accept responsibility for monitoring the integrity of their own platforms. They must be held publicly accountable for their platforms’ capacity to be used in ways that undermine our civil society and political institutions.”