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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

‘News should come from reliable sources,’ expert warns social media users

The implications of ‘fake news’ were discussed on first day of Fujairah Media Forum on Tuesday

Othman Al Umair, publisher and editor-in-chief of Elaf e-Newspaper at the Fujairah Media Forum. Courtesy Fujairah Media Forum
Othman Al Umair, publisher and editor-in-chief of Elaf e-Newspaper at the Fujairah Media Forum. Courtesy Fujairah Media Forum

The rise of so-called fake news on social media platforms means that, more than ever, the public should turn to reliable sources for accurate information, experts said at a media forum in Fujairah on Tuesday.

Untrue stories were widely cited as being influential to voters in last year’s US presidential election and false information is circulated on Facebook news feeds on all manner of subjects, such as the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, prompting the social media giant and Twitter to take measures to counter the tide of misinformation.

Earlier this month, Facebook released a statement to say it was working on a tool so users have more information on what they choose to read, as part of its Facebook Journalism Project.

“This new feature is designed to provide people some of the tools they need to make an informed decision about which stories to read, share and trust. It reflects feedback from our community, including many publishers who collaborated on its development,” they said.

Rasheed Al Khayoun, an Iraqi researcher and lecturer attending the eighth Fujairah Media Forum, said that, when there is so much false information available online, it is important for people to find reliable sources for news.

“News should be taken from reliable, professional sources, not from anywhere, and social media users should be aware of that,” he said.

He was one of about 20 journalists and scholars taking part in the forum, where many said that further government regulation was required to solve the problem, in addition to a greater awareness among the general public.

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Othman Al Umair, publisher and editor-in-chief of Elaf e-Newspaper, said that fake news was hard to control.

“We can’t control what people write on social media but we can find a way to provide reliable sources, which require financial resources and strong media institutions that can be authentic sources of news on social media platforms,” he said.

“I believe that many social media users are aware and can identify fake news, but having a penal code and a system to control such platforms and punish those who misuse it is something very important to have in each country.”

Mansour Al Mansouri, director general of the National Media Council, said that social media has taken over among younger generations.

“According to a study done by the National Media Council, 42 per cent of the young generations consider social media platforms to be their number one and preferable media and news source; second came the TV with 23 per cent; while newspapers ranked fifth with 8 per cent,” said Mr Al Mansouri.

“The direct interaction between the publisher and reader introduced us to a new era of media. Everyone is a journalist today and the information is no longer an exclusive possession of one provider - speed and the power of influence have become essential elements of the media today.

“This will definitely form new challenges for the traditional media, especially for print media, as it affects its viability and continuity.”

Mr Al Mansouri added that the sheer numbers of people using social media now mean that traditional media ignore the platforms at their peril.

“About four billion people are connected to the internet today, 2.7 billion are using social media; such huge numbers prove the ability of these sites to have a radical impact on the media sector,” he said.

The two-day media forum is under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, and is organised by the Fujairah Culture and Media Authority.

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