A friend forwarded a YouTube video reporting on an apparent practice in a Central Asian country of abducting women for marriage.
My friend was understandably appalled at the violence and injustice, and was asking organizations and friends to highlight it. I didn’t.
It could very well be a true report, and one of the great benefits of social media is being able to spread news and rights violations that otherwise would never see the light of day.
But amidst all the “fake” charges of “fake news”, I also know that there are many fake stories or news that is deliberately slanted for ulterior purposes. The news agency behind this particular report is partially funded by a government and is known to spin some stories in that government’s favour.
Was this particular story designed to deceive? I don’t know. If I had had more time, I would have searched further to see if there were a corroborating report. But, when in doubt, I do not share.
Am I too cautious?
I am aware that, in organized disinformation efforts, arguing about what is true or factual is not the point. The purpose of disinformation is to destabilize, to throw doubt on people or governments or journalists or systems. Responding to outrageous claims with corrections often only continues to serve the story’s purpose.
But it is also true that I may not respond appropriately to something that is entirely true. Does that also mean that those promoting “disinformation” have won?
WACC Europe is addressing disinformation in its upcoming seminar and assembly, and WACC Global is developing a consultation process on communication rights and responsibilities in the digital world. These are approaches for all of us to engage in as we try to figure out how to best navigate multiple channels of communication with a rights-based lens.
In the meantime, I will uphold quality journalism, media diversity and freedom of the press as essential elements for accurate and comprehensive reporting. And I will be cautious about what I share. How about you?