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False, biased, provocative or panic news – watch out for Whatsapp

False, biased, provocative or panic news – watch out for Whatsapp

The Meh Emoji by Natasja Beyleveld, Managing Director of Namibia Media Monitoring.

People post without thinking it through at least three times before posting it: fact. It happens to the best of us: fact. Accidental or unintended messages on Whatsapp can not be deleted, not even by the administrator: fact.

There are some ‘similar evils’ across the various social media platforms, but let us review a popular app used in Namibia. Are you also joined to the hip with various Whatsapp groups? Politics, school, work, trends, sport, friends, family, clients, hobbies, there are too many to mention. Do you know that studies have indicated these groups to be a huge platform for spreading false, biased, provocative or panic-causing news? Remember, your written word is devoid of tone and emotion so there’s no guarantee that a reader will receive a message in the spirit with which it was composed. In the context of being a diverse nation in Namibia, that makes a lot of sense.

“Trying to remove content from the internet is like trying to remove pee from a swimming pool” (Dave Duarte, Social media expert). Gosh, this says it all.

We’re dealing with widespread lack of empathy, and people wanting to have ‘fun’ at the ‘expense of others’. Your attention is needed, now. On the toilet, during a coffee date, and in your tent whilst on holiday. Whatsapp has the power to interrupt conversations and take time from your family.

Frankly, Whatsapp (social media) can make you rude. We are being numbed; made lazy to avoid traditional and (at times) more effective means of organization and communication. We can easily become detached from the consequences of our posts on social media. We need to understand that sharing something, can have dramatic consequences. The catch is that saying nothing at all and leaving the group also says a ton.

What rights do we have? Group admins could be held liable for their members’ posts, – eat that!

Simon Colman, the Executive Head of Digital Distribution at SHA Specialist Underwriters, says that; “social media by its very nature has a viral impact, this means that fabricated and/or defamatory posts have a tendency to spread like wildfire, with the potential to cause severe damage to individuals, groups and even entire economies.”

What this means for Namibia, is that one way our regulators can keep a lid on the spread of dangerous content is to place emphasis on the liability of each person involved in the chain of circulation. More particularly on those with power to monitor, control or delete offensive content – hence the focus on the administrators (this could be for WhatsApp or Facebook Groups).

Invasion of privacy and defamation aren’t terms we generally use in everyday conversation, right? Perhaps we’ll read about it in the political news sections. Nevertheless, the broad and immediate nature of posting and sharing information on social media platforms means that vast numbers of people can get upset or offended very quickly. ‘Nough said.

The lesson is: Perhaps we need to start decluttering our world of communications. They made a movie about emojis and your four-year-old knows all about it. We’re allowing tweens and teens to ‘speak emoji’. Do take a moment to understand your own threshold. It may not be a bad idea to give your itching fingers a break, and indulge in some real, face to face conversations with people you genuinely like. We live in a world of ‘over-share’, but that does not mean that we automatically need to be participants all the time. Weigh your guilt-driven participation with the mental and physical peace of ‘saying no’ sometimes. The Margaret moments happen, but we do not need them.

NaMedia specialises in mainstream media (print, broadcast) and digital (global) media monitoring and content analysis. The Namibian company has a 12 year track record and works with reputable agencies, insitutions (public/ private), and corporate entities across various industries.



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