On social media and in many media outlets, a whole range of fake news are disseminated daily, designed to manipulate us, mislead us and reduce the trust we still have in the media.
Lilia Zaharia, media expert and editor of the stopfals.md portal, and Dorin Galben, journalist and blogger, joined in a discussion about fake news, how to identify them and what impact these have on the society. These are the conclusions that they reached.
The pandemic, a new field of mass disinformation
Both the media and opinion leaders must back up their information from reliable sources and stop the distribution of fake news. "This phenomenon is growing, and remains anchored in society since the beginning of the pandemic in the Republic of Moldova. At first, these were about the source of the virus, but now it’s about the allegedly harmful consequences of vaccination – that's why I say that disinformation is still present,” says Lilia Zaharia.
Identifying such news is simple, but also difficult at the same time. "Usually, this information appears on suspicious websites or is posted on social media by people who are not trustworthy. If we see a website of the following type blog.information.md – it should make us think twice and understand that it's a website that distributes fake news and is malicious. We also check people, in order to understand their ‘seniority’ on social media. We check the news in several sources, or document them directly from the authorities, on their official pages," says Dorin Galben, blogger.
Verification of information – at the top of the list
The history of a website or a person who has shared information is very important. The guests on the podcast mentioned several fake news topics recently found online, stating that verifying the source of information is absolutely essential for any citizen. Likewise, the two speakers said they regularly made posts and videos about fake news generating a lot of online chatter, helping people to discover the truth, and dismantle the fake information.
"Unfortunately, many citizens are tempted to trust all these fakes. And videos about their dismantling are much less popular," Dorin Galben notes.
"I was disappointed that people who died had previously also contributed to this disinformation, were manipulated and fell for the disinformation while they were alive. It’s important for artists and public figures to enrol in the effort to promote the truth, correct and documented information. In fact, disinformation kills. That's what the pandemic has shown us,” said Lilia Zaharia.
The media does not circulate fakes
"Fringe" or "pro-Kremlin" websites are the ones that spread mass disinformation – both interviewees agree. They confirm that well-known media sources in Moldova had not spread fake news. "Perhaps some journalists, out of haste or lack of sufficient professional training, do not research enough before they give us the information. But our press does not distribute fake news, in a concrete way," says Lilia Zaharia.
Journalist Dorin Galben mentioned several ways in which fake news are disseminated in the country:
1. Social media – that's where the fake news come in and the compromised politicians are perhaps trying in this way to get back on the political scene;
2. Lack of information or lack of knowledge causes people to distribute this news further;
3. Fringe websites – very easy to identify by name and address, but also by their notoriety;
4. Leading headlines – people, unfortunately, often read only the headlines, so journalists need to be very careful when writing them.
Media education, a priority in society
The discussion continued with concrete examples, from the lives of friends or relatives, in which fake news were catastrophic for their families. Although some people have had great losses, including human lives, even after this they still cannot distinguish true information. The two journalists urged citizens to arm themselves with more thorough arguments when talking to their close friends or people who spread fake news. Of course, the conclusion of the discussions was that citizens should get information themselves from safe, official sources, check the information in several sources, and share it only after they are absolutely sure of its veracity.
To better navigate the current media space, visit the website of the European Union's anti-disinformation initiative www.euvsdisinfo.eu
You can listen to the full interview in the podcast:
Author: Nadia Darie
Article published in Romanian by Agora.md