Tshwane residents warned of fake news post doing the rounds
Pretoria - People spreading fake news target their audience’s emotional side as a means to bait them for online clicks.
Fake news expert, Chris Louw, who has assisted the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on fake news, said recent posts about a Pretoria building being used for human trafficking achieved exactly that for the purpose of going viral.
Earlier, SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo dismissed the posting – which claimed that a residential building at 53 Johannes Ramokhoase Street in the capital CBD was used for human trafficking – as fake news.
“The building is actually a residence for police officers,” he said.
The post, claiming that a woman who was looking for employment managed to escape from the building, and that police were involved in a plot to seize vulnerable women and transport them to other countries, spread across social media.
Louw said people spreading fake news used serious topics like human trafficking to appeal to people’s emotions and prompt them to react to the “news” and help spread it further, thinking they were helping others or creating awareness of an issue.
“Naidoo was right in saying that human trafficking is indeed a reality, and people are affected by this phenomenon globally – and the spreading of fake messages on a matter of such a serious nature is not only a crime but shows a lack of sensitivity to those affected by this crime,” Louw said.
“I think what we need is more awareness and activism from the general public to be able to see these as fake news stories, and put an end to them instead of spreading them further.
“I would suggest that the media are the best people to deal with fake news by reporting on it frequently. I don’t think the police arresting people for fake news could be the ideal solution, as that could easily border on the violation of freedom of expression.
“Anybody caught spreading fake news is likely to face charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
“In instances where resources are being used to respond to such fake news, every effort will be made to recover the costs of such a response,” said Naidoo.
During Covid-19 there has also been an appeal not to create or spread fake news as one can be liable for prosecution. Always verify information before sharing it.