It’s time we learnt to challenge conspiracy theories, become astute at separating right from wrong and bold to reject fake news. Here is a code of conduct I think could help you.
In the age of social media, we have developed an appetite for timely and trusted information and news. This hunger for news makes us relaxed about the nature and the truthfulness of the news, making us victims of fake news and even sharing it with others. This information is no longer text-based but comes with flashy video footage and impressive voice-overs. For example, early in the pandemic, there were WhatsApp messages and emails sent around, which included false claims about Covid-19. For example, the message that ‘Covid-19 is a conspiracy.’
You may be wondering why don’t the social media companies take responsibility for what is put on their platforms? Professor Damian Tambini from the London School of Economics argues “social media companies have a ‘duty of care’ to protect users from harm caused by content published on their platforms.” There should be more regulation for online content to combat the harm caused by fake news, hate speech and images of self-harm and extremist/terrorist content. However, it is difficult to get the balance right between freedom of expression and what constitutes hate and harm, and what is fake.
The story of fake news
We must be cautious of information coming from unknown sources. The Quran tells us “Believers, if a discredited person brings you news, then check it in case you cause harm to others ignorantly, and later regret what you did” (Al Hujurat: 6). This verse was revealed when a Zakat collector wrongly informed the Messenger (peace be upon him) that the tribe of Bani Mustalaq was unwilling to pay Zakat, their annual due to the state coffers. However, upon investigation, this turned out to be untrue. This kind of misinformation was condemned. So, we must challenge any attempt to hide the facts and bend the truth. This might be a small action but the ripple effect will impact on many people and bring them back to the truth. It will lead to honesty and create an atmosphere of trust.
Five ways to fight fake news
- Think carefully before responding: Take a few minutes to think about what you have just read, seen, or heard. Ask yourself is this from a reliable source? Can I check this information on other social media platforms? Who produced the content and why are they sharing it? By taking the time, you are less likely to share fake news and misinformation. If you have a slight doubt about it, then don’t share it. Always give a well-thought-out response and never share without checking.
- Sometimes it’s good to be suspicious of stories: You believe as much as the ones you don’t. So, when you read material that agrees with your worldview, be open to alternative interpretations.
- Don’t yield to conspiracy theories: While scientists were researching to understand Covid-19, the conspiracy theorists were busy spinning false rumours about the China-virus. A Muslim is a seeker of truth, so seek evidence and robust proofs rather than made-up ideas that sound interesting.
- Challenge fake news when you see it: If you see friends sharing content that you know to be fake news or a conspiracy theory, then send them a private message advising them this is fake because of …
- Engage wisely with social media: To keep yourself safe and others, be polite and respectful, show kindness and grace, be truthful and honest, take responsibility for what you write or say. When you disagree do so with courtesy.