WhatsApp: The new dais for fake stories

Updated 03 February 2015

WhatsApp: The new dais for fake stories

Smart phone users in the Kingdom are recently being duped by a string of messages composed of fake news and rumors sent through WhatsApp.
This social media application has a large impact on Saudi society, since citizens and expats don’t tend to follow news from mainstream media, choosing to receive their daily dose of information from WhatsApp. One of the most recent bogus messages circulating on the social platform is a text that reads: “Saudi Arabia prepares to grant Saudi nationality to all expats who were born in the Kingdom.” Though seemingly harmless, the message is causing quite a stir among the expat community.
That is not the only fabricated story on the application. Many citizens and residents were shocked after they received false messages and videos regarding floods in Jeddah and other parts of the Kingdom.
“I received a message last night via WhatsApp about huge floods and natural disasters in Thailand. However, when I turned on the TV to see what was happening, I found there was no such news. Then, I realized that it was a fake story,” Waleed Abdullah, a Saudi resident in Jeddah, told Arab News.
Sometimes fake news come at a price for WhatsApp users, who occasionally make decisions based on the information they receive from the application.
“These messages always confuse me, especially when it is raining in the city. At one time, I was at my office and I received a notification from WhatsApp, saying heavy rains in Jeddah were flooding several areas of the city. I immediately left my office to pick up my children from their schools and then I discovered it was all fake,” said Ahmed Saeed, a Sudanese expat.
Alaa Badran, manager at an IT company, believes the solution to end the bogus messages lies in awareness.
“It is necessary to create an awareness campaign among WhatsApp users to help them know how to differentiate between fake news and real ones. More than 90 percent of the rumors have been linked with this application,” said Badran.
Though the IT expert stressed the fact that differentiating news hoaxes from true media messages is not very hard, he also claimed there are some users who are unaware how their behavior impacts others, especially when they forward unsubstantiated news.

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.