Dubai ramps up drive against fake for­wards

Khaleej Times - - NATION - Amira Agarib amira@khalee­j­

The me­dia, po­lice and other au­thor­i­ties con­tinue to be the pub­lic’s most re­li­able source of in­for­ma­tion.” Ja­mal Ahmed, Al Ameen ser­vice, Dubai Po­lice

dubai — Spread­ing fake news and ru­mours on so­cial me­dia desta­bilises the se­cu­rity of the coun­try and could cause losses to the tune of “mil­lions of dirhams”, a Dubai Po­lice of­fi­cial has said.

Step­ping up its aware­ness drive to counter the spread of ru­mours, the po­lice’s Al Ameen ser­vice or­gan­ised a panel dis­cus­sion to warn res­i­dents about fake news and false claims that are of­ten cir­cu­lated through so­cial me­dia.

Ja­mal Ahmed from Al Ameen ser­vice stressed that shar­ing ru­mours and other false state­ments is a crim­i­nal of­fence that is pun­ish­able by law with a fine of up to Dh1 mil­lion.

Ahmed iden­ti­fied ru­mours that cir­cu­lated in the coun­try re­cently, say­ing that most of them came from peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions that wanted to boost fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia. Many ru­mours sought to tar­nish the UAE’s rep­u­ta­tion glob­ally, he said.

These in­cluded pur­ported strikes by Houthi mili­tia at Abu Dhabi and Dubai air­ports; un­founded re­ports about car­cino­gens in pop­u­lar food prod­ucts avail­able in the coun­try; ‘aban­doned ve­hi­cles’ in Dubai; ‘mur­der’ of a pop­u­lar Moroc­can singer in Dubai; ‘avail­abil­ity of drugs’ in schools; and pho­tos that

wrongly showed univer­sity stu­dents as mar­tyrs in the Ye­men war. One ab­surd write-up said Dubai was a ghost town, while a ru­mour went as far as say­ing a that a cer­tain ‘ruler’s court’ was giv­ing money away — a post that un­for­tu­nately gone vi­ral.

“One ru­mour that went vi­ral sug­gested the UAE had launched a ro­bot to spy on Fri­day prayer go­ers. How­ever, it later emerged that the in­ter­ac­tive ro­bot was in fact in­vented by stu­dents of Al Ain Univer­sity,” said Ahmed.

Yet an­other ru­mour that aimed to tar­nish the UAE’s rep­u­ta­tion sug­gested that the fire at Ad­dress Down­town Dubai ho­tel on New Year’s Eve in 2015 was caused by the Houthis. “We have to think about the se­cu­rity im­pact of the ru­mours we help spread.” Fight­ing the spread of ru­mours “goes be­yond deny­ing them”, Ahmed said. He stressed the need for stronger aware­ness drives across all in­sti­tu­tions. Fam­i­lies and teach­ers, in par­tic­u­lar, play an im­por­tant role in train­ing the youth on how to han­dle the in­for­ma­tion they en­counter on­line.

If one chances upon a ru­mour or a state­ment that is not sup­ported with re­li­able sources, he or she must re­port it to the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned and re­frain from shar­ing it, Ahmed ad­vised. The me­dia, along with the news plat­forms of govern­ment of­fices, po­lice and other au­thor­i­ties con­tinue to be the pub­lic’s most re­li­able source of in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to Al Ameen. “Pro­pa­ganda is tough to com­bat. De­fend­ing the coun­try against it takes pa­tience, skills and strat­egy. It can only be coun­tered through aware­ness,” said Ahmed.

Fake news of a ‘strike’ at the Dubai air­port as tweeted by a Ne­ti­zen; and (right) screengrab from a video on YouTube that por­trays dirty cars as ‘aban­doned’ in Dubai.

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