Fake News

There are always new risk trends with the latest being the advent of “fake news” which has exploded on the back of technology and social media. This can impact on the image and reputation of businesses of all sizes and have a massive financial impact.

Many of these are very sophisticated campaigns such as the email campaign purportedly driven by Russia and deployed in the US election against Hilary Clinton. The public relations campaign in South Africa driven by Bell Pottinger using fake bloggers, commentators and twitter using the phrases “white monopoly capital” and “radical economic transformation” as a deflection mechanism from the state capture allegations leveled against their clients, the Guptas, is another example.

In many cases technology and artificial intelligence are used to try and filter and block certain content, words or verify content sources. Germany has approved a bill to fine social networks up to €50 million if they don't remove fake news quickly enough.

Facebook has issued the following guideline of tips on how to spot fake news.

  • Be sceptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims made in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  • Look closely at the URL.A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site and compare the URL to established sources.
  • Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organisation, check their “About” section to learn more.
  • Watch for unusual formatting.Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  • Consider the photos.False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  • Inspect the dates.False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  • Check the evidence.Check the author's sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  • Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it's more likely to be true.
  • Is the story a joke?Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story's details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  • Some stories are intentionally false.Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

So what can you about this?

  • You need to have a robust social media and privacy policy in place that all staff buy into
  • You need to have a crisis management process in place to deal pro-actively with this should it impact you or your business