South Africans are being exposed to increasing amounts of fake news online, particularly through false articles posted and shared on Facebook.
According to a report by the Sunday Times, “news” websites are posting breaking news – often with gripping headlines – which is completely fake.
“Attention leads to traffic, which potentially leads to advertising. The danger is that some of the fake news reports can go viral through a few gullible individuals falling for them and spreading them via social media,” said Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx.
Digital marketing consultant Alex Wright said the more traffic these fake news sites generate, the more money they make.
This leads to sensationalised stories which aim to create “the most hype on social media” being posted, regardless of their authenticity.
“The overall risk is that the Internet becomes awash with sensationalism. Facts become distorted propaganda and the truth becomes less valuable,” he said.
South African artist murdered
A recent example of this fake news was a report that artist Ayanda Mabulu – the man behind the Zuma-Gupta state capture painting – had been shot and killed.
The Sunday Times phoned Mabulu, who was alive and voiced his displeasure at the fake article.
“My friend saw the story on social media. He called me but I was doing interviews so I couldn’t answer. Only once he called my wife did he find out that nothing had happened,” he said.
Other examples are a report that DJ Black Coffee died in a European hotel room, and Judge Thokozile Mapisa’s car was torched.
The full report is in the Sunday Times of 24 July 2016.