Gullible ‘so­ci­a­p­aths’ buy on­line lies hook, line and sinker

Post - - Opinion - RAVI GOVEN­DER Ravi Goven­der is an author, en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist

I HAVE coined a new word: So­ci­a­p­ath. No, not so­ciopath, which is a per­son with a per­son­al­ity dis­or­der and who pos­sesses no con­science.

A so­ci­a­p­ath is a per­son who is ob­sessed with so­cial me­dia and does not have the con­science to es­tab­lish that a fact is gen­uine be­fore send­ing it out to all and sundry.

Es­pe­cially dur­ing re­cent events on the shores of KZN, fake news via so­cial me­dia has be­come a dis­ease.

I feel like with all dis­eases it should be ex­punged and not al­lowed to fes­ter.

Two weeks ago, along with the dev­as­tat­ing storm, came an avalanche of mis­lead­ing pho­tos and re­gur­gi­tated weather re­ports of fur­ther im­pend­ing doom.

On that Tues­day, when KZN was badly rav­aged by strong gusts of wind and heavy rain­fall, I re­ceived a What­sApp mes­sage from a friend.

It read: “Please be ad­vised that the earth­quake that hap­pened in some parts of Africa is not yet over be­cause it’s in ro­ta­tion form. Re­searchers are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to stay awake be­cause a mas­sive earth­quake is go­ing to oc­cur to­mor­row morn­ing at around 2am. It has been proved that the earth­quake is caused by the lava of the vol­cano that is un­der pres­sure be­neath the earth’s sur­face. Coun­tries ex­pected to be af­fected are Zim­babwe‚ Botswana‚ Zam­bia‚ part of South Africa‚ Mozam­bique‚ Malawi‚ Ghana and Mada­gas­car (sic).”

This was ab­so­lute garbage meant to make vul­ner­a­ble ci­ti­zens of KZN quake in their al­ready wa­ter­logged boots.

Then a flood of mes­sages poured in warn­ing of Hur­ri­cane Sifiso.

They read: “WEATHER ALERT: Hur­ri­cane Sifiso to hit KZN. Please keep in­doors as this is clas­si­fied as a cat­e­gory 3 storm. Heavy gale force winds pre­dicted at 90km/h with gusts of 120km/h re­ported by Weather Alert SA. Storm ex­pected to sub­side in 3-4 days. Avoid trav­el­ling in th­ese con­di­tions. Please be cau­tious peo­ple. FOR­WARD TO FRIENDS & FAM­ILY.”

The South African Weather Ser­vice had to do dam­age con­trol re­fut­ing the above re­port via a Twit­ter mes­sage.

You see, poor Sifiso had sur­faced in Septem­ber al­ready. Re­ports of his “Sec­ond Com­ing” were widely ex­ag­ger­ated.

More drama poured in on so­cial me­dia – the new bridge be­ing con­structed on the N2/ M41 near Gate­way had col­lapsed.

The SA Na­tional Roads agency is­sued a state­ment that it was a hoax. In fact, a sand bank in the nearby vicin­ity of Mount Edge­come had col­lapsed.

It didn’t end there. It was re­ported that the re­cently built Cor­nu­bia Mall, next to Gate­way, had “just been com­pleted, but is no more”.

A photo of a dam­aged mall ac­com­pa­nied the dra­mat­i­cally worded mes­sage.

Sharp-eyed read­ers saw that the photo was not of Cor­nu­bia Mall but, as was later con­firmed, it was of Cradle­stone Mall on the West Rand that was hit by a se­vere hail­storm a day be­fore the KZN night­mare.

In Amer­ica, fake news has be­come a se­vere prob­lem too, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing pol­i­tics.

There has sur­faced what has be­come known as the Trump De­range­ment Syn­drome, which is self-ex­plana­tory.

In KZN re­cently, po­lice warned that per­pe­tra­tors of fake news could get charged crim­i­nally. This was as a re­sult of false news re­sult­ing in vi­o­lence in KwaMashu.

Be­cause of the false­hood, for­eign-owned shops were bro­ken into and robbed overnight. Some were set alight and de­stroyed.

Roads were blocked and cars were stoned when fake news emerged that chil­dren in an area were be­ing kid­napped for the sale of body parts.

The sad re­sult of fake news is how emer­gency and po­lice ser­vices, al­ready em­bat­tled and hav­ing their re­sources stretched to the limit, are re­spond­ing to false alarms. Their time is taken up run­ning af­ter noth­ing, when real emer­gen­cies can­not be at­tended to.

Why do peo­ple re­sort to fake news?

Univer­sity of KwaZu­luNatal me­dia ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Jean-Phillipe Wade said the in­vent­ing and shar­ing of such fake sto­ries is merely “an ego boost”.

Peo­ple get ex­cited in want­ing to be the first to dis­sem­i­nate news with­out check­ing its ve­rac­ity. Be­fore hit­ting the send but­ton, here is a good tip to heed: If you hear of some break­ing news on so­cial me­dia, spend a lit­tle time check­ing out rep­utable news agen­cies and me­dia sites and see if they too are cov­er­ing the story. If it is that big a news item, you can bet it would be cov­ered by them. Num­ber 210 of the fa­mous

Aesop’s Fables well il­lus­trates this mod­ern aber­ra­tion. It is the old adage of “the boy who cried wolf ”.

The tale is about a young shep­herd boy who re­peat­edly bluffs nearby vil­lagers that wolves are at­tack­ing his flock.

When a wolf ac­tu­ally does ap­pear and the boy again calls for help, the vil­lagers be­lieve that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf.

In later English-lan­guage poetic ver­sions of the fa­ble, the wolf also eats the boy.

The Greek ver­sion of that para­ble puts it very well: “This shows how liars are re­warded: even if they tell the truth, no one be­lieves them.”

So, for the sake of good, do not be­come the tool of the big bad wolf of so­cial me­dia. It may be that one day you may need the po­lice or the fire de­part­ment to help with your emer­gency.

They may be too busy run­ning af­ter a well-con­cocted fa­ble.

Make an ef­fort to avoid spread­ing fake news. It’s a ter­ri­bly unso­cial thing to do.

A fake news pho­to­graph from the Ukraine which has been cir­cu­lat­ing on Face­book dur­ing the re­cent storm in Dur­ban.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.