Whenever you look at the Facebook in Myanmar, you would be bombarded stories shared by your friends or friend of friends, which most of the time, totally do not reflect the reality of the current state of affairs in the outside world. It is as if some of us are living in the virtual FB world, boasting and enjoying achievements that are spread by fake news or propaganda specialists in the social media.
In the social media platform, NNCP (NUG, NLD, CRPH, PDF) terrorists were winning against the government. The government soldiers are being killed in drove. NNCP is about to take over major cities of Myanmar in a day or two. Any attacks on civilians, civil servants, schools, hospitals, banks or public infrastructure were carried out by Myanmar Armed Forces. Popular fake news creating pages such as Khit Thit, DVB, Mizzima, Irrawaddy are everyday doing great disservice to the nation and promoting illegal terrorist activities through the spread of fake news.
The damage done by the fake news on the nation’s unity will take many years to repair. Now people have to watch out for who they do business with, guess who might be a terrorist or terrorist sympathiser, wonder if any time they can talk or walk freely at all and watch out where they go. Fake news maim businesses, destroy reputations and cause those who believe in the fake news to take the inappropriate actions, wasting time and scarce resources. Regardless, the first line of defence the fake news is education, especially to have the knowledge to spot the fake news so that one would not become an accessory to hideous crime of eroding societies and igniting mistrust.
So how do we spot the fake news? There are eight methods of preventing yourself not to fall into the fake news trap:
The Title is Too Long
Normally fake news headlines are longer than usual. The headlines need to be long so as to attract eyeballs to the fake news. Social media platform (FB) prioritise content that would get clicks and eyeball time. Fake news and click bait content thrive in this environment. The algorithm (programming) is simply structured that way as more eyeball time means more advertising revenue from advertisers for Facebook. As an example, on December 23, 2021 21:00, Khit Thit Media posted one breaking news with a super long headline in Burmese “After Bombing with a Military Helicopter, Military Personnel Burned the Whole Village of Nat Chaung in Kalay City”. That was the title. That was definitely a fake news.
No New Information Other Than What has been Said in Title
Normally fake news can be first spotted by looking at the news title or heading and comparing that with the content below. In cases of fake news, very little new information is observed in the content. E.g., if the title said, soldiers killed five civilians in San Chaung, Yangon, the content would also roughly says the same. It would not contain any additional information, sources, references or data backing up the statement. That would be highly indicative of being fake news.
Verify, Verify and Verify
Before you click the share button super fast, be wise and verify if the news you just read is factual. Especially if the news ignite your inner hatred, passion or ‘I told you so’ moment, it is your responsibility to verify the facts, before sharing with others, be it friends or public. It is your PSR – Personal Social Responsibility.
Answer this Critical Question
Ask yourself this question before liking, commenting or sharing the news – Am I doing this to prove that I am right or am I doing this to educate all those around me? If you are doing it for the former, you are simply boosting your ego. Do share news, knowledge, short cuts, to educate people. Once you have the mindset of the latter, you would be forced to evaluate if the stuff you are sharing is really educational in nature.
Don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Do not trust everyone you meet on the net either. Don’t trust all news, especially those posted by news agencies with an ulterior motive to ignite hatred against the government. That is being skeptical. Being skeptical also means trying to obtain corroborative evidence on the news you just read. Keep accuracy at the top of your mind.
Follow Reliable Media
Even mainstream media such as CNN or AFP have published the fake news arising out of Myanmar. But these agencies are overall quite reliable. You may also have to understand the slant or the lean of an agency, whether it is really impartial. E.g., BBC, VOA, RFA are normally writing against Myanmar current administration. The frequency of fake news arising out of these agencies is higher than CNN or AFP. They have an agenda. Their staff may have an ulterior motive, to destabilise the country in order to topple the current government.
Check out the News Producer or Sharer
Check if they have a website. Check in the About Us section. Check if they have contact address, telephone numbers. Check if their FB accounts are genuine. Fake news agencies would not normally have physical addresses or phone numbers for fears of getting arrested for making up or spreading fake news. The individuals and celebrities using their own accounts would normally be stationed in another country, to stay away from the law enforcement arm of Myanmar. How would overseas Myanmar know more about what is really happening in Myanmar than the locals themselves! Last, if news producer or sharing is using a fake accounts, 99 out of 100 times, the news are going to be fake, for fear of both criminal and civil actions against them.
So for agencies, don’t trust those without proper local contacts. For individual and celebrities, do not trust those sharing news or encouraging you to do this and that from overseas. 100% of the times, those using fake accounts on social media are with an agenda and totally not to be trusted.
Check out the Citations and Sources of News
If who and who has said, the citations and references should be stated in the news. The quotes should be complete and not just the partial parts. There are also numerous cases of doctored images and using back the images of incidents in the past. Please be aware that you can do a reverse image search on the internet, to see if the image is genuine or just cut and paste from another source. You can also use image.google.com to search using the url of your image.
Being aware of these eight check points would not only ensure that you do not become a victim to fake news but also, unknowingly, make others become of fake news!