Two ways to combat fake news

Conspiracy theorists against vaccines have become a force with the rise of variants and are having a field day on the Web.

File photo
File photo

Fake news on online platforms only got worse during the pandemic despite efforts to stamp it out. Guardians and owners of social media platforms cannot be trusted to get rid of misinformation even as they deploy human fact-checkers and algorithms in an attempt to detect and banish these posts and blatantly false information.

Fake news has become a demon, a beast that countries are finding hard to curb during this health crisis. The millions of unvaccinated people are proof of what the world has to endure as Omicron rages and infects people more quickly than any other variant in the last two years. Fatigue against the pandemic is a fact but battling facts with facts is what governments and global institutions are doing in the third year of this crisis. They have been successful to some extent but realise that more needs to be done on social media and on the Web. The digital space appears democratic.

However, the free-for-all appearance also has potential for trouble. Governments need to step up monitoring to restore order and control the rise of unchecked digital power vested in a few Big Tech companies. Regulations here may sound regressive to those liberals on the Web but are a necessary in these uncertain times when all manner of misinformation is paraded digitally and often in plain sight.

Conspiracy theorists against vaccines have become a force with the rise of variants and are having a field day on the Web. Links are shared, apps are created, and the number of doubters is increasing by the day. If 2021 was bad, 2022 will be worse, say experts. So how do we combat these charlatans and naysayers from spreading information that is simply untrue or biased. First, governments must make laws and inform the public about what’s in store if they spread fake news.

Ignorance cannot be an excuse to spread false information. The UAE is explicit in this regard. Anyone spreading false information that does not emanate from official sources could face a year in jail and a fine of Dh100,000. Offenders will get a jail term of two years and a fine of Dh200,000 during a crisis like the pandemic or an emergency. This is stated in Federal Decree Law No 34 of 2021.

Second, it is important to boost digital literacy and make people aware and sensitive to the perils of social media. A digitally aware and alert society is better prepared to combat fake news. Digital education should start at home and continue in schools. What is acceptable behaviour on the Web and on social platforms? Students are early learners, and they should be made aware of cyber laws of the country and taught online etiquette. For adults, it’s never too late to learn as society goes digital and viral. Credible sources like Khaleej Times should be your first stop for the news. Remember, fake information is a real problem. It can mar reputations and ruin public order. Together we can fight the scourge.

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