There is this quote, “ A lie can travel around the world, while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
The growth of the internet and social networking platforms has elevated lies, from rumours to pandemic status. And the more we use these platforms, the easier it is to spread fake news, reaching a number of people in a noticeably short time.
Earlier this year, there had been a rumour going around online, that people with black skin, especially in Africa cannot get Coronavirus, because of the warm temperatures. This rumour was seemingly true, especially after The World Health Organization questioned why Africans were not dying in the thousands as they had predicted.
But why does fake news spread that fast?
A study by MIT initiative on the digital economy showed that false news was 70% most likely to be retweeted, than the truth. The researchers found out that falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories. They also found out that effects were most pronounced for false political news than for news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.
The novelty was found to be an important factor when it comes to the spread of fake news and misinformation. False news was perceived as more novel or unusual than true news, which suggests that people are more likely to share information that they perceive as unusual.
What are the implications?
The ramifications of fake news are dire. Fake news has the potential to misinform elections, misalignment of business investments, and as we have seen, mislead people from taking the necessary precautions during a pandemic. And while the amount of false news online is clearly increasing, we have decided to do our part in the fight against the fake news pandemic, one fact check at a time, as we all fight the health pandemic. On our site, Kenya Monitor, we will be doing a series of fact checks, to debunk rumours and give the true picture of a situation, for accountable blogging.
You too can take part in this initiative. Got a tip? Reach out to us.