The recent political events in the country have left a lot of people seeking for the most accurate and up-to-date information on what’s going on. With the state media not churning out enough information to feed the hunger of the people,Zimbabweans have turned to social media for answers. But Zimbabwe has a fake news problem.
The army noted the reluctance of the national broadcaster ZBC in publishing news not deemed to be favorable to the top hierarchy and the same can be said of Herald, the flagship paper of ZimPapers, another state-run entity. The bias also exists among private media players, leaving social media to be the best source for news and information in a country that has, according to the government, a social media abuse problem that even necessitated the creation of a new ministry.
By Pearson Mbendera
Collins dictionary has Fake News among the words of the year 2017, and that alone should worry us as a people.
Before the internet, it was much more expensive to distribute information, building up trust took years, and there were much simpler definitions of what constituted news and media, making regulation or self-regulation easier.
But the rise of social media has broken down many of the boundaries that prevented fake news from spreading in democracies. In particular it has allowed anyone to create and disseminate information, especially those that have proven most adept at “gaming” how social networks operate.
Facebook and Twitter allowed people to exchange information on a much greater scale than ever before, while publishing platforms like WordPress allowed anyone to create a dynamic website with ease. In short, the barriers to creating fake news have been undone.
President Mugabe has been reported to have died several times, the news of the opposition leader Tsvangira’s death have once circulated on social media, and even as I write this, there are a lot of fake news on what’s happening in the political realm of the country, all of which simply fake. Despite many people knowing the fakeness of the stories, sometimes they are just too good not top share, feeding on the egos of those who would have created them.
This is the era we are living in, characterized by the need to create something that goes viral hence the proliferation of fake news. It is doubtful that we will ever see the end of this, but for now, we can simply note the existence of fake news in the country, that is the first step we have to take to combat it.