Iraq: Fake news and its impact on the recipient

I'm an image! 2021 / 16 / Nov

It has become known that the willingness of modern man to spread and believe fabricated news is a phenomenon that has its roots and ancient cultural traditions, as it has been man’s game ever since he learned to speak and mastered the weaving of stories and narratives. However, fake news is transmitted very slowly, and affects a small group of people in small and limited geographical areas. It used to take For many years, it reaches the point where it affects large groups of people in order to change historical events or produce new ones. Nowadays, due to the spread of social networking sites that have contributed to its consolidation, any news or story can travel very quickly and spread throughout the globe, causing effects and resulting repercussions that no one can predict, not even its maker or author.

Lying is forbidden in the three monotheistic religions

   Honesty and purity of intention are the most important keys to psychological comfort. In contrast, lying is considered one of the ugliest human traits. It is also a characteristic of the hypocrite, as the Noble Messenger (may God’s prayers and peace be upon him and his family) told us: “The signs of the hypocrite are three: if he tells a lie, if he makes a promise he breaks it, and if he is trusted he betrays.” And he, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “And beware of lying, for lying leads to immorality, and immorality leads to Hell. The servant will continue to lie and seek to lie until he is recorded with God as a liar.” God Almighty said in Surat Ghafir, “Indeed, God guides not one who is extravagant and a liar.”

   As for lying in the Christian and Jewish religions, it is considered forbidden, as the Old Testament mentions texts that confirm the prohibition of lying, including: “You shall not steal, nor lie, nor deceive your neighbor” (Leviticus, chapter 19 and verse 11), “And this is what you must do: Do not lie to one another.” And judge in your courts with justice and peace” (Zechariah, chapter 8 and verse 16), “Do not lie to one another” (Colossians, chapter 9 and verse 3), and there are no exceptions to this rule.

Fake news in times of crises

   The period of crises that a society may go through is the most appropriate and best environment in which rumors grow, and fake news turns into an “almost daily trend,” some of which are comical and do no harm, such as the news of “a young man from Mosul marrying four girls in one day,” only to be discovered later. The image used in the news is an advertisement for a beauty salon, and the motive for publishing other false news is to get more likes, and many others. In late August 2020, for example, sectarian discourse spread on Twitter and Facebook following the circulation of rumors indicating the arrest of the owner of a loaded car. With explosives in the Dhi Qar region in southern Iraq, which has a Shiite majority, and promoted that he came from Tikrit in the north, which has a Sunni majority. On the other hand, other pages said that he was from Dhi Qar and belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces, and the discussion did not end until the official authorities denied the two stories, and when the tragedy of the burning of Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Baghdad occurred, pages circulated dealing with false news about the burning of health institutions, which increased people’s panic and their doubts about the institution. Health and security, and that their lives are targeted.

    In front of a large number of screens and behind their laptops, three employees in the Monitoring Department in the Information Department of the Ministry of Interior follow the huge amount of daily news broadcast on television and social networking sites. Their task is to identify questionable news and transfer it to the rumors department in the department, which He, in turn, coordinates with the official authority concerned with the published news, to deny or confirm it via his Facebook page ().

   American researchers confirm a scientific study they conducted that false content, whether it is text, video, or image, has a chance of spreading by more than 70 percent compared to real content. Among the factors that help this wide spread is its re-sending among people, especially among friends and acquaintances, and it provides an element of excitement, which arouses different feelings in its readers (mostly negative feelings such as fear and disgust) if they are specifically political and security-related ().

Mechanisms to combat rumours

If technology is an effective factor in this widespread spread of rumors and lies across the Internet, it has also provided solutions to combat them, through new tools developed by technology companies and research laboratories, the most important of which can be identified in ():

1- Applications of artificial intelligence: which rely on advanced algorithms to analyze information and detect fake news immediately, automatically, and more quickly than traditional fake information monitoring groups. During the year 2016, Google funded 20 European projects working to verify information, including two projects in Britain used artificial intelligence techniques to combat fake news during the parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom, and Facebook published a paper called Information Operations in April 2017 that included developing algorithms capable of monitoring organized campaigns aimed at spreading rumors by monitoring this type of systematic behavior to spread specific news, which are algorithms. Able to block fake accounts, and monitor the account posting the same news repeatedly, or sending suspicious correspondence.

2- Digital tracking: These are solutions that not only monitor rumors, but also work to track their spread, trace their source, and verify their elements in an immediate and organized manner. One of the most prominent examples is the Emergent website, which is part of a research project affiliated with the Too Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. The website places banners on the rumor, clarifying whether it is a rumor or information that is correct or not yet confirmed, and by clicking on it, it shows its source, the extent of its spread, and other information. 

3- Rumor control centers: These are observatories equipped with the techniques and technical applications necessary to monitor cyberspace and monitor rumours, especially during periods of crises and emergencies. In his study on the spread of rumors on social media, researcher Onuk from the British University of Warwick pointed out the importance of these centers to refute misinformation and provide citizens at the right time with correct information through various media channels and social media, such as: websites, social networks, and services. Instant feed, e-mail, and telephone messages, as well as traditional media, which is the streaming feed that represents a counter-current that limits the spread of rumors and prevents their circulation. In the Czech Republic, the Counter-Terrorism Center at the Ministry of the Interior established an initiative to combat rumours, after creating 40 websites in the Czech language containing fabricated stories. Against immigrants, which prompted the Center to launch an initiative refuting this information through a Twitter account and a website presenting the government’s point of view.


4- Specialized initiatives: These are projects that are launched for the purpose of combating rumors in a specific period or scope, such as: the Cross Check project launched by the “First Draft” coalition to combat fake news in newsrooms, which was dedicated to combating misleading information during the French presidential elections. As well as the CredibleU initiative, affiliated with the Center for Digital Innovation at Leiden University in the United States, which targets politicians and their behavior on Twitter. Facebook also launched a project to combat fake news on Facebook during the Dutch and French elections, and has already closed 30,000 accounts in France that reproduced, published and shared fake news.

5- Participatory combat: which is based on the user’s involvement in confronting rumors, by spreading awareness among users and urging them to report questionable content, which is what Facebook followed, as it added instructions for users to control fake news on its application for mobile phones in 14 countries around the world. The world, and allowed users to identify and report them to go directly to the parties responsible for auditing and verification operations.

6- Digital reputation management systems: These are systems associated with public relations and the corporate and business environment, but they can generally be used to monitor trending topics, collect reactions to them, formulate responses or counter-content and publish them.

      There is a draft law to combat cybercrimes in the corridors of Parliament, which includes rumors and fake news, but it raises controversy and “may undermine the right to freedom of expression in Iraq,” according to Human Rights Watch.