Fake news in desperate times

18 November 2019 | Columns

Forces of hostile intent are hard at work concocting fake election results, following last week's special vote.

The danger with such reckless behaviour is that it can poison the minds of people who, when the actual results come out, may refuse to accept them and could turn violent.

Fake news has also been used as a weapon to spread false information, often with false attribution.

At Namibian Sun we have been battling the scourge of our logos being used to falsely attribute fake news to particularly President Hage Geingob.

This kind of behaviour by forces of darkness deliberately causes havoc within a country where literacy levels, especially in the space of digital media, are still very low. It is this low level of understanding of digital media that makes Namibia one of the ripest turfs for misinformation.

Very few Namibians are capable of making a distinction between genuine and fake news, especially on social media where nearly no regulation exists.

Architects of fake news pounce on this level of ignorance to advance their filthy agenda and destabilise an otherwise tranquil country.

The next couple of weeks running up to the final announcement of election results will require heightened awareness and vigilance, because fake news will flood social media and other platforms.

There already exists a shaky trust in the electoral process, so anything that can remotely amplify such distrust can only spark further chaos.

Fake news comes in different packages. In Kenya, the mainstream media was at the forefront of misinformation that exacerbated the view that the 2007 election was rigged. Such reporting plunged the East African powerhouse into bloodshed that left at least 1 300 people dead and 600 000 displaced from their homes.

Misinformation, which reverberated mostly via radio frequencies, fanned the flames of the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Namibia thus has to be careful of the dangers of fake news and the power it has to plunge this country into dangers that we are even scared to contemplate.

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