Why Turkey ranks first in the world in exposure to fake news

Many Turkish people believe fake stories are made up for political or commercial reasons, with 68 percent saying the government should protect news accuracy. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018

Why Turkey ranks first in the world in exposure to fake news

ANKARA: Good and responsible journalism has become a highly depated issue in Turkey. When it comes to fake news, a significant number of Turkish people say they have already encountered it.
This year’s Reuters Digital News Report ranked Turkey first out of 37 countries in terms of exposure to fake news. Almost half of Turkish respondents — 49 percent — said they had read made-up stories in the week before the survey was conducted.
Turkey was followed by Malaysia, Greece, Mexico, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, which scored 44, 44, 43, 42, 38 and 36 percent, respectively.
Exposure to fake news in the US stands at 31 percent, while the figure is lower in the UK at 15 percent, and in Western European countries such as Germany at 9 percent.
There are myriad examples of fake news in Turkey. In June, a video clip on social media in which a young person brutally cut a puppy’s feet was swiftly branded as a “Syrian refugee torturing an animal.” After being broadcast on many news sites and on social media, it triggered hate speech and xenophobia among many in Turkey.
The video was widely shared, reaching thousands of people. But it turned out that the video had been fabricated — and actually originated in Jordan, not Turkey.
According to the Reuters survey, many Turkish people believe fake stories are made up for political or commercial reasons.
The proportion who agree that the government should act more to separate fact from fiction on the Internet stands at 68 percent in Turkey, compared with 41 percent in the US and 59 percent in Germany.
To check the accuracy of the news, people often refer to Dogruluk Payi (Share of Accuracy) and Teyit.org, two Turkish nonprofit fact-checking organizations that were founded in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Their teams have examined hundreds of suspicious stories and photographs online.
Isinsu Acar, a university student in Istanbul, came across fake news this week when commuting, and said the documentary contained several unfounded arguments.
“To confirm that it was false, I used my logic and looked for inconsistencies,” she told Arab News. “Usually this step is enough to confirm. If it is not, I try to use reliable news sources. I use Dogruluk Payi to test whether news is true or not. I refer to the alternative media frequently.”
The rise of social media as a source of news in Turkey, where about 90 percent of the media is owned by pro-government business groups, also contributes to fake news consumption and can trigger social tensions and inflammatory rhetoric, experts have said.
News literacy in an area where technology facilitates the spreading of made-up stories is important in rising above fake news.
Servet Yanatma, an independent researcher and journalist who has contributed to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report, said all these figures revealed not only distrust in media content but also a high level of polarization.
“The respondents seem to be divided into two camps, either trusting or distrusting news media. People in either camp prefer to trust what they want to believe without questioning the accuracy of the news,” he told Arab News.
According to Yanatma, in Turkey — where media literacy is low — modern laws that address the challenges of online media, respect copyright and keep personal rights are necessary, along with some ways of solving the issue of deep polarization.
When Turkish participants in the Reuters survey were asked their main source of news in the past week, TV came first with 48 percent, followed by online, including social media, with 39 percent. The shares of radio (7 percent) and print media (6 percent) remain low.
“When the coverage of television and newspapers is largely controlled, their online content is controlled as well. The main question for me is how much the people access and use the ‘fake news.’ If a large part of traditional and online media is controlled in a country, people will inevitably expose its partisan coverage,” Yanatma said.

TWITTER POLL: UK decision to exclude Arab nations from COVID-19 quarantine ‘unjust’

Updated 07 July 2020

TWITTER POLL: UK decision to exclude Arab nations from COVID-19 quarantine ‘unjust’

  • Saudi Arabia's infection rate is similar to UK, Egypt is even lower
  • Poll reveals Arab News readers believe quarantine rule is unjust

DUBAI: The UK government’s decision to not include people traveling from any Arab nations in its waiving of the coronavirus quarantine requirements is unjust according to an Arab News Twitter poll.

The recent announcement that it was lifting quarantine requirements for people arriving in England from 59 different countries failed to include any Arab nations, despite many having significantly lower COVID-19-related fatality rates and similar proportions of infections.

Of the 1,039 people who took part in the poll, 56 percent said they did not believe that the United Kingdom’s decision was justified, while 27.3 percent said they did.

According to ourworldindata.org more than 15 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases lead to a fatality in the UK, while in the UAE that number was significantly lower at 0.62 percent, and in Saudi Arabia 0.91 percent.

People traveling from the countries not included in the list of 59 will still be required to self-quarantine on arrival into the UK for two weeks.

The UK currently has an infection rate of approximately 0.42 percent of its total population, while in France the rate is at 0.25 percent and Germany a slightly lower 0.23 percent – both the latter countries are included in the exemption list.


But Saudi Arabia’s infection rate is currently at 0.61 percent of its total population, Egypt is at 0.075 percent and Tunisia even lower at 0.01 percent – and yet none of these countries are included.

The UAE which has a significantly lower population  of less than 10 million, has an infection rate of 2.88 percent.

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