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.


Microsoft nears big bet on TikTok

Updated 03 August 2020

Microsoft nears big bet on TikTok

  • Deal could help Microsoft build on its $27 billion purchase of job-search social network LinkedIn in 2016 to become a bigger player in internet advertising
  • TikTok has taken the world by storm, and emerged as a significant competitor to platforms like Facebook and YouTube

Microsoft has said its potential acquisition of short-form video app TikTok’s US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand operations could be completed by September.

The company set a provisional date of Sept. 15 for a move that carries myriad risks, and which would thrust the computer giant into the politically fraught social media business amid Sino-US tensions and increased scrutiny of big-tech companies.

The deal, though, could help Microsoft build on its $27 billion purchase of job-search social network LinkedIn in 2016 to become a bigger player in internet advertising, currently dominated by Facebook and Google.

Microsoft is likely to have an edge in pricing negotiations, as the US is effectively forcing TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, to sell by threatening to ban the app over security concerns.

TikTok has taken the world by storm, and emerged as a significant competitor to platforms like Facebook and YouTube. But like its rivals, TikTok faces substantial new costs for content moderation due to the spread of misinformation and allegations of political bias.

Increased oversight costs accounted for much of the 10 percent drop in gross profit margins for Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, over the last three and a half years, Refinitiv data showed.

“Does Microsoft really want to own an app that breeds conspiracy theories in tweens (teenagers and people in their twenties)?” said Hank Green, YouTube star and CEO of educational media company Complexly. He added that TikTok often removed content from its platform to maintain “a certain feel,” and could face public challenges over such decisions more often under a bigger name such as Microsoft.

At $1.55 trillion, Microsoft is the world’s second-largest company by market capitalization after Apple, but has in recent years faced less criticism than its peers over antitrust, data protection and China-based projects.

Microsoft has done several big deals since Satya Nadella became CEO in 2014, with acquisitions including LinkedIn and virtual world-building game Minecraft. They have fared better than those under predecessor Steve Ballmer, whose failed deals included Nokia Oyj’s phone business.

The LinkedIn acquisition, at 50 percent above its share price, was Nadella’s biggest and riskiest. Microsoft shares fell three percent when it was announced, with analysts expressing concern over slowing revenue growth and an expected cap on usage.

Some concerns may have been overblown. Microsoft has avoided antitrust and privacy scrutiny with a cautious approach to connecting LinkedIn to other products, such as Outlook, and analysts have largely viewed the deal as a success.

Though the coronavirus disease pandemic has slowed sales, LinkedIn advertising  revenue was among Microsoft’s fastest-growing over 2017-2019, as the global economy roared.

Overall, LinkedIn has generated $14.3 billion in revenue for Microsoft through ads and subscriptions, though analysts suggest it remains unprofitable.

TikTok is a bigger gamble, as it caters to a less-affluent audience than LinkedIn, where advertisers typically pay more to attract wealthier consumers. TikTok’s ad sales team and technology are also far less mature than LinkedIn’s were in 2016, and TikTok faces greater competition.

About 11 percent of US adults use TikTok at least once per week, versus 49 percent for YouTube and 62 percent for Facebook, a survey by tech consultancy Vorhaus Advisors showed last month.

LinkedIn came to Microsoft already 13 years old, with 11,000 employees and 105 million monthly users globally. Six-year-old TikTok, by contrast, has about 1,000 US employees and has been downloaded 226 million times in the four countries targeted by Microsoft’s deal, data from app tracker Sensor Tower suggested.

LinkedIn “was bought on domination of a sector, good revenue, and good margins,” said Mike Vorhaus, head of Vorhaus Advisors. “TikTok is going to be valued based on its incredible user growth and mobile advertising revenue opportunities.”

TikTok would make Microsoft relevant among both young engineers looking for a hip place to work and advertisers clamoring for alternatives to Facebook and Google.

YouTuber Green, said he doubted Microsoft ownership would hurt TikTok, noting he amassed 600,000 TikTok followers since he began posting a month ago.

“I don’t see anything at all standing in the way,” he said.