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The idea of “fake news” came to fame during the 2016 US Election, with nonsense articles being shared widely. Fake news looks legitimate, but the stories behind the headlines are entirely imaginary.
In Zimbabwe fake news is mainly spread via social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. For example, the recent panic buying was spread via WhatsApp. Hundreds of fake news sites have been set up, some producing false stories to entertain and amuse – others to peddle their own agendas.
Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi today warned Zimbabweans to be wary about what they read on social media.
He was responding to a question from Senator Lillian Timveos, about a message circulating was on WhatsApp.
“My question is directed to the Hon. Minister of Defence. I have just seen a circular on WhatsApp that has been written by the Zimbabwean Army that says we are worried about the escalating tension between the Ruling Party and the Opposition and they will not be allowing any demonstrations until further notice. Is this true? Are we having problems in this country, do we have something going on, are we in a state of emergency or what is going on. Is this real but the message has the Zimbabwean Army logo.” Hon. Sen. Timveos asked.
“Madam President and all Hon. Senators, the Zimbabwe National Army and in fact the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have got official spokespersons and when a statement has been issued by an official spokesperson, I am then able to reply to that but I cannot be expected to reply to statements made by those who are not official spokespersons of the Defence Forces.” replied Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
“I also want to say, let us be very careful about what is written on Facebook and other social media. There are people and organisations who would be quite happy, who would want to celebrate if there is turmoil in this country. They spread this and that rumour to get the population agitated; to get the people in a state of uncertainty about their own security and the security of the country. So, we must be very, very careful about taking at face value some of the statements that are being circulated. As I have said, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have official spokespersons and when a statement has come from the spokesperson, then you know that it is an authentic statement. Thank you.” The minister of defense ended.
Fake news has become a new ‘trending topic’ for predators of press freedom, a pretext seized by authoritarian regimes to muzzle media outlets. Deliberate misinformation and online annoyance spread faster than veld fire and can have intensely destabilizing effects.
Pardon has been a technology enthusiast his entire life and has spent the better part of last decades in information technology and security, and he writes with an aim to remove some of the “mysticism” from the cyber world. He’s the Editor at Techunzipped. Away from the keyboard, you’re likely to find him playing with the latest gadgets or the latest Game.