Fake news as a weapon of mass destruction


It is a short step from the looting of state coffers to the looting of stores – and from there to the looting of the truth.

One of the most disturbing facets of the violence ripping Mzansi apart is that, while it shows that many people are hungry and hurting, there are others who welcome it as an opportunity to promote themselves or stir hatred against other groups.

Social media is contributing to this chaos. Fake videos are circulating online, fake Twitter handles are sending out fake incendiary messages from fake revolutionaries.

These are forwarded from one account to another and laundered into the public mind before the truth can lace up its boots.

We at Scrolla.Africa are not immune from this scourge. Last week we published a statement that purported to come from Jacob Zuma’s former spokesperson Mac Maharaj. It was sent to us in good faith. As soon as we were alerted to the fact that it was fake, we took the quotes down. 

For that failure we apologise to Mac Maharaj and to our readers. A truer version of Maharaj’s words is up on our site today.

We have examined the sequence of events that allowed this story to slip through so that we can better prepare ourselves to combat those who propagate dubious agendas or fight their propaganda wars through underhand means in the media.

It is the pursuit of this information war that has turned journalists into specific targets of the looters.

Our reporters are on the streets right now, risking their lives by facing angry crowds, rubber bullets and live ammunition at the peak of the pandemic in order to find and tell the truth of what is going on.

We refuse to allow ourselves to become vehicles for the agents of destruction – and we call on our readers to help us fight this battle.

Don’t pass on dubiously sourced material. Don’t traffic in hate mail. Let us know what is really going on in your communities.

In these dangerous, even frightening times, we will either live together – or all go down together.

Video source: @IanCameron23

Image source: @aomenya