Fake news watch: Phony facts and bogus reports

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, now has to deal with “fake” images on social media purporting to show her leaving Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Fake news watch: Phony facts and bogus reports

  • Arab News presents a weekly roundup of bogus reports and phoney facts in the mainstream and social media

LONDON: Here we present a weekly roundup of bogus reports and phony facts in the mainstream and social media.

Bogus images of Christian woman leaving Pakistan
Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, now has to deal with “fake” images on social media purporting to show her leaving Pakistan, AP reported.
Although it was unclear who was behind the images, which prompted death threats to a lawmaker shown in one photograph, it was likely they were intended to whip up radical religious fervor over Bibi’s case.
Some have demanded that Bibi be publicly executed, and have filed a petition to repeal her Supreme Court acquittal. The government says Bibi remains in Pakistan, at a secret location for her own protection, until the review process is finished.
Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry slammed the “fake” postings on Monday, one of which claims to show Bibi meeting Pope Francis, AP reported. The photo is actually of Bibi’s daughter from two years ago. Bibi and her family have always maintained her innocence.
“People can even be killed because of such fake postings,” Chaudhry said. The pictures were widely circulated on social media in Pakistan and shared on several local journalists’ groups, even a police and a media group.
“We are trying to seek cooperation from Twitter and Facebook against such fake news,” Chaudhry added.

No defense for Iraq minister claims
Iraq’s National Coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, has denied the latter’s nomination for the post of minister of defense.
The coalition statement said some media outlets have recently reported statements or “leaks” claiming that Allawi has nominated himself for the position.
The office added that “the National Coalition, while calling on the media to investigate the accuracy of the news … categorically denies the validity of those rumors, and confirms that Allawi did not run for office at all, but nominated several names for this position.”

A lesson on fake news in Egypt
Egypt’s Education Minister Tarek Shawki has denied a rumor spread on social media claiming that free education will be canceled in government schools and universities.
Shawki had previously said that the issue of free education should not be left without discussion and requires reconsidering.
The minister’s remarks came during a meeting of a House of Representatives committee, sparking a storm of controversy and speculation that the minister wants to abolish free education, a right protected by Egypt’s constitution.
In an interview with Egyptian media outlets, Shawki said those who misquoted him and were behind spreading the rumor should be punished.


Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

Updated 19 February 2019
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Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

  • Dutt's account was blocked after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her
  • Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence”

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: One of India’s best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc. on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.
Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.
Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.
She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.
“I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter’s encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality,” said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.
Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence.”
Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.
“If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.
The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.
Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen’s rights on social media and online news platforms.
The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.
Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.
Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.
Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.
Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.