Silencing fake news

Silencing fake news
Fecha de publicación: 
5 July 2022
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Cubans have had a very good example of how to avoid fake news these days.

No single lie, rumor, gossip, or whatever you want to label fake news, have arisen these weeks regarding the country’s energy situation, even though is quite complicated.

The thing is that since the very beginning, usually at the right time and above all, being honest, with detailed reasons, our people has been timely informed.

Our radio and television, written and digital press, and also social networks, have worked hard to replicate properly such explanations with data. Tough situations are better handled when the reasons are known and the efforts to prevent them are shown.

If, as the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Electrical Union and other related structures had been doing with information, other entities had done it timely, it would have been possible to stop more than one fake rumor, whose sole purpose is to add more fuel to the fire of difficulties, especially when it comes to food and transportation.

But, like a snowball, more than one lie has been fed up, or speculations about a truth, for not having provided timely information and reasons that, in addition to satisfying the people - the main reason - also contribute to credibility and reliability of sources that are systematically intended to distort.

But innocence and naivety are part of another story. Dr. Hilda Saladrigas, Dean of the School of Communication at the University of Havana, recently recalled, “All public communication, both in physical spaces and the media, including digital, have a meaning granted in advance by its producers, that is, those who prepare the content, the communicative products.”

As there is more and more deployment of science and resources in the media battle waged against this country, we must also remain in constant learning.

It is not by coincidence that Dr. Saladrigas confirms that “there is a lack of culture regarding the way these “social networks” work, their use and what they really represent, positively and negatively. And I am referring to the knowledge that social networks are constituted as platforms, and like traditional media, they handle information with false hints (the so-called fake news), true, or in average terms (the worst of all due to the confusion that it intentionally generates), where the construction of reality is done very easily and the "relational system" is a very well calculated algorithmic management through artificial intelligence.

In this permanent learning process, Cuban Internet users should learn which senders of messages on social networks and other digital platforms are really reliable so as not to "take wrong steps." Because fake news is much more than just wrong news by someone's mistake. It is, above all, a lie devised with treachery and premeditation to influence politically and economically against something or someone.

And in this respect, it is worth stopping and meditate on what renowned communication scholar Manuel Castell said one year ago, reproduced by

“Social networks are held responsible for misinformation. But communication theory established long ago that the message sent is only received and influenced if there is a favorable predisposition to the content of the message, based on our interests, values, political preferences, cultural environment and personal psychology. We accept what suits us and reject what bothers us.”

Of course there are the malicious people and those who follow others’ lies, but there are people who, eager to know, logically expectant and anxious, take for granted the first thing they read or hear about a subject they care about and then replicate it, allegedly doing a favor to friends and relatives.

Those are the ones who should be trained in detecting and avoiding deception because lies are backed in social networks as well. Studies assure that at least 10% of profiles on the Internet are false, although it is impossible to know the exact number.

And a false profile may serve as the breeding ground par excellence for spreading lies because it is an account opened in any digital space that allows access to registered users, managed by people, machines or both, in order to deceive, obtain information, or money.

Trolls are among the most common false profiles - created by people to hide their true identity who stir up debates -, as well as automated accounts and ghost accounts.

Facebook is the social network with most ghost accounts with over 270 million, which represented 13% of all accounts in 2018. Twitter shows nearly 48 million fake profiles (15% of the total), while on Instagram, fake accounts add up to about 8% of the total.

The so-called parody accounts are also a form of lying, although there are those who associate them only with humor or mockery. As the name suggests, they are an attempt to replicate the original and it is enough that whoever creates them complies with certain rules to avoid being banned and thus, without any obstacles, carry out their mission of misinforming, discrediting...

For this reason, it is best to go to secure sources that usually coincide with institutional sites and can be identified by the .cu, or domains.

In Facebook, a social network widely used by Cubans, it is hard to differentiate information. Hence it is useful, before believing in a news, to check the profile of those who post the information, read previous posts, and check inside information of the user.

Because it is difficult to have really unpublished, truthful and last minute data about Cuba if you live in another country. For this reason, it is better to always try to verify your sources, to be informed by national journalists or influencers with verified reputation and work ethic, as well as by other authorized voices and that generally come from ministries and other government or institutional entities.

There will always be fake news against and about Cuba elaborated from inside and outside the country, all with the same goal. And it will be necessary to continue learning to counterattack effectively – not oversaturating. It is all about taking the first step, and not being on the defensive stance, denying…We need to report quickly and accurately, as the Cuba’s Electrical Union and the Ministry of Energy and Mines have done these days. This way, the population knows and is empowered with the truth. So the door to fake news is permanently closed. That is the best way to silencing fake news.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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