News / Opinion

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi
3 minute read
2 Feb 2017
2:37 pm

Use common sense to decide whose news you trust

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi

Fake news has taken over modern life, and social media companies have been forced into looking at ways to clamp down on fraud, which is what fake news is.

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi.

In the 1990s, one-hit-wonder kwaito group Hunger Boyz featured Senyaka on a song called Fong Kong. It was all about fake goods that are manufactured in the East (no, not the East Rand!!) and how they flooded our market. They caused havoc, as no one could tell the real thing from what we also used to refer to in my hood as “umdubulo” (a knock-off). I remember there was a time when you would have to count the number of “ticks” on your Nike takkies to ensure they were the real thing. Of course, we were never really sure how many ticks were supposed to be there.

The problem with anything fake is that it takes away from the authentic and dilutes it, a bit like how you have to pour so much more Oros concentrate these days just to even taste it. That is what the scourge of fake news is doing to journalism.

For those who do not know, fake news is a weekly column written by a certain journalist by the name of Sibusiso Mkwanazi. I am just kidding. This is a practice of generating “news” that is meant to fool you into believing a report that is not real. In short, someone will fabricate a story in order to benefit from the outcome, while it is not based on any concrete evidence or reliable sources. This is a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, and it is changing the way we live.

As you know, we live in a world where people consult the likes of Twitter and Facebook for content, and this is when things get dicey. Fake news has taken over modern life that these very same companies have been forced into looking at ways to clamp down on fraud – which is what fake news is. Tech giants Facebook and Google are testing tools to assist their customers to better identify fake news sites. Google is barring hoax sites from being able to advertise on its site, while Google News is being even more strict with its fact-checkers.

Fact-checking is no easy task, let me tell you. I am reminded of this everyday when our twins come home from their Grade 4 classes, and we ask them the simple question so many other students are asked: “Do you have homework?”

You would think this is followed by a straightforward “yes” or “no”, but it is not. My wife and I then have to turn into private investigators trying to unearth the truth of exactly what the boys’ answers mean. They sometimes say: “Yes, but it is not for tomorrow,” while their timetable says otherwise. And what about when you ask your significant other how far they are from home and they say “five minutes?”, when you know that they are nowhere near home? This is exactly how we should all treat fake news.

Use common sense when it comes to who you trust; use reputable sources and get a second or even third opinion (and by this, I do not mean a tweet or Facebook post). We are going to need all the help we can get to comb through all the fake news out there.