What is exactly fake news
and why has it been such a problem these days? Firstly, according to Cambridge
dictionary, fake news is “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the
internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or
as a joke”. In our current time, the rise
of fake news has been detrimental to the people it targets and to the news
organisation it is disguised under. “The resulting paranoia led people to
accuse once-trusted sources, including
The New York Times, of carrying fake news. And social media is a core part of
the problem” (Aljazeera.com,2017). Also, with social media platforms, fake news
has been much easier to share around and has allowed anyone to basically create
and disseminate information. Additionally, fake news also had an enormous
impact on the 2016 US presidential elections whereby many fake stories
published were taken seriously by news outlets such as ABC News and Fox News.
This just goes to show how easily manipulative fake news is. We will look at
how the fake news phenomenon has caused problems around the world and who it
has affected.

The first case of “fake
news comes from Germany, where reports came out about a 13-year-old
Russian-German girl known as Lisa F who had been raped by refugees from the
Middle East. The story received extensive coverage on Russian and
German media who reported the allegations that she had been abducted on her way
to school and gang-raped. The attack turned out to have been fabricated, as
Berlin’s chief of police was quick to point out” (Connolly,2016). Additionally,
“a TV interview given by a woman identified as the girl’s aunt claimed that the
girl was raped by numerous men over the 30-hour period while she was missing.
The report that sparked the protests was spread on social media and has so far
been watched more than a million times on Facebook” (McGuinness,2016).

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Through this story, we
can see that the Russian media was the main reason for the uproar and breakout
of demonstrations against Muslims and refugees. Moreover, the community where
the girl lived was mainly made up of Russian speaking migrants, where this
story fuelled anti-migrant protests and sentiment. It even went as far as the
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accusing the German government of
“covering up the case” which raised tensions between the two nations. Even when
the case was cleared up, the fake news started which mentioned how she was gang-raped and beaten for 30 hours by southern
looking asylum seekers. Overall, this story had a massive negative effect on
the refugees who came to Germany as they faced attacks and experienced a lot hate
towards them. This fake story also started a diplomatic row between Russia and
Germany as the Kremlin tried to undermine
the German response to the story and was intentionally trying to cause trouble.

The second example of the
fake news problem comes from the Middle East and from Qatar to be exact.
Conspiracy theories and propaganda are not a new thing in the Middle East, as
many governments in the region thrived on them to keep adversaries confused and
citizens deceived. However, with the internet, fake news and disinformation have just gotten much easier to spread and
cause more harm. The now six-month-old
standoff started when “the world took notice of the conflict in June, when
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) closed their borders
with their tiny Gulf neighbour in response to comments attributed to the Qatari
emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani” (Salisbury,2017). The conflict started when
hackers gained access to the website of Qatar News Agency (QNA) and posted false stories about Israel and
Iran and linked fake comments praising the two countries to Qatar’s monarch,
Sheikh Tamim.

This led to chaos around the region and even when the
Qatari government stated that this was a hack, the Arab countries still published
negative news about Qatar and accused it of supporting terrorism and militant
groups and being tolerant with Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran.

 In addition, the social media platform of QNA
was hacked and their twitter account was used to publish several tweets calling
for the removal of the boycotting countries ambassadors. “By
early June, the hashtag “???_????????_??_???#”—”Cut relations with Qatar”—was
trending on Arabic-language Twitter”(Salisbury,2017). Furthermore, this, in turn, led to QNA shutting down its site and
deleting the tweets. However, the damage had already been done and by that time
the countries of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cut all ties with
Qatar and imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions against it.  

As it can be seen, the
fake news that was posted on the website
led to these problems which until now haven’t been resolved between the Gulf neighbours. Qatar has lost a great deal of
money due to the sanctions imposed upon it by the blockading countries who are
major exporters to the tiny Gulf state.
Furthermore, the state airline, Qatar Airways was banned from using the air
borders of the four countries which increased flight times and fuel consumption
and led to higher ticket prices to recover costs. Nonetheless, it is believed
that investigations that were carried out after the hack took place, showed
that the attack on Qatari media was coordinated by its neighbours to damage its
reputation and warn the US by showing them that “Qatar was a rogue state in
cahoots with Iran and a supporter of terrorism. Initially,
at least, Trump seems to have taken the bait, going as far as to suggest the
blockade was his idea” (Salisbury,2017).

In conclusion, fake news
is a very problematic issue which seems to be getting worse day by day. The
fake news phenomenon has caused irreversible damage to countries, people, and
corporations, and with the help of social media, it has just become easier to
spread lies than the truth to millions of people online. Additionally, the fact
that it can be state-backed makes the prospect much more damaging and dangerous
to the receiving end as can be seen from my two examples. “Unfortunately, we
live in a time where the level of analysis that is done with the data is
disregarded, not because it’s filled with fake news, but because it conflicts
with deeply held fake conclusions. Such conclusions cause us to make extremely
poor pronouncements about a wide range of public policy issues. Until we are willing
to fess up to our distorted false conclusions, all the true news in the world
might as well be fake” (Patrick, 2017).

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