Durban. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) held its 69th World News Media Congress, 24th World Editors Forum, and 27th World Advertising Forum in Durban, South Africa. Photograph: Leon Lestrade, via IOL.

South Africa: Editors fight back against fake news

By Candice Soobramoney

The widespread distribution of fake news on social media platforms continues to be a thorn in the side of the media industry worldwide and continues to dupe an unsuspecting public.

The South African National Editors’ Forum is adamant this cannot continue and is encouraging media organisations to work with them in fighting back.

Sanef media freedom sub committee chairperson Sam Mkokeli told delegates at the World News Media Congress and World Editors Forum at the ICC in Durban on Friday that the industry should collaborate and compile a list of authentic news sites from which online readers could subscribe to.

A list on some of the common spoof and fake news sites, which continues to dupe readers, he said, should also be distributed.

“It will help people in the media industry and readers,” said Mkokeli, who added that consumers of online news should no longer be taken advantage of.

He said the websites and online platforms disseminating fake news are also developing replica sites of legitimate news agencies and published stories that tugged at the emotions of readers.

“A number of social media accounts look similar . . . and a public that is not alert of the problem, don’t know who (or what) to trust. We also have prominent leaders feeding this propaganda.”

Mkokeli added that there was “big money” behind some of the fake campaigns, which were well co-ordinated.

Jane Elizabeth, of the American Press Institute, said they surveyed 10 000 graduates of journalism schools in the United States and asked them what was one of the many challenges that faced the industry.

“We gave them 10 choices and the number one answer was the flood of false information online,” said Elizabeth, a senior manager at the API, which is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that focuses on helping the news media advance and improve.

The former Washington Post editor, who joined API in 2014 to lead its programme on accountability journalism, said a researcher had also found that misinformation outplayed attempts to correct it by 8:1.

Elizabeth said that during the recent US elections, misinformation proved to be a growing problem.

She recalled that in January researchers and journalists were taken to Washington DC and locked in a room.

“They were asked what, as journalists, did they do wrong in the elections and what could be done differently in the next US election in 2020.”

They said they kept changing misinformation, that was spreading online in their print editions, but regardless of this, the fake news continued to circulate, she said.

“From this, they were told they needed to engage on the right platform, which was on social media (and not print).”

Published by IOL

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