IT takes less than a second to hit the ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ button. But how accurate is the information you are spreading to your circle of friends or followers?
Have the facts been verified? In the present information age where social media reigns supreme, this seems to be the least of people’s concerns.
The majority of social media users often believe what they prefer to read, regardless of the accuracy of the news.
Take the recent online “killing” of former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Five days before he died, a doctored image of a statement allegedly from the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) spread like wildfire on social media.
I first saw the photo on Twitter with a barrage of ‘RIPs’ and condolences that came with the retweets. My first instinct as a journalist was to check whether the statement was authentic.
I found that the only recent postings on the PMO’s website and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official Facebook page and Twitter were that his father’s condition had weakened further.
There was also no update on the websites of Singapore’s mainstream media but some international media reported about the false news.
On scrutinising the doctored image, I found that the link provided was wrong and a time stamp dating back to last year.
The hoax also appeared on my various WhatsApp groups and many of the individuals defended their postings no matter how much I tried to explain the situation.
A friend even posted in one group: “Eh you idiot, CNN also tweet(ed) the news lah. You think you better than CNN?”
Although my instincts told me I was right, I did not bother arguing with gullible individuals and waited for official news.
True enough, the PMO issued a statement soon after to say that the social media posting (then) of Kuan Yew’s death was fake.
We are in an era where everything we read or see on social networking sites is not necessarily true. Therefore, we should take things on the Internet with a pinch of salt and consider both sides of the story instead of blindly believing a single source.
The rise of social media – where people try to be the first to share news without verifying the facts – is taking a toll on journalists who have to spend precious time chasing down false news.
Over the past months, other fake news items on social media include a twister in Penang and tsunami alerts which journalists had to check with the authorities.
As our mobile gadgets become more sophisticated, we have to make sure that our minds move forward as well.
Be a smart social media user. So think before you broadcast.