33.3% of Rumors Spread From “Social Media” to Traditional Media Outlets
Akeed – Aya Khawaldeh
Rumors on local affairs originating from outside the country declined to only five rumors out of a total of 42 rumors circulated in September when compared to the previous month.
A survey by the Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” showed that rumors from abroad constituted 12% of total rumors in September. This compares with 19 rumors (42%) of a total of 45 rumors from abroad circulated on social media platforms or in foreign media outlets interested in Jordanian affairs in August.
For the purpose of the analysis, “Akeed” has developed a methodology for monitoring rumors. In this report, a rumor is defined as “incorrect information pertaining to a Jordanian public affair or to Jordanian interests circulated among over 5,000 people via digital media.”
Typically, rumors flourish during turbulent times; e.g. during crises, wars, and natural disasters. This does not mean that rumors will not sprout again when things are back to normal. It is widely known that rumors fly high in certain social, political, and cultural environments. Their reach also depends on the level of mystery engulfing them as well as the importance and impact of their subject.
A quantitative and qualitative analysis was conducted to identify rumor sources and topics that go viral (on websites and social media networks).
By source, the results unveiled that 88% (or 37) of rumors on social platforms or news websites detected in September came from local sources.
Another key finding was that rumors from abroad (posted on social platforms, traditional media outlets, or news websites) had substantially dropped in September compared to their share of overall rumors in the four previous months.
Five (12%) out of 42 rumors originated from sources outside the Kingdom in September against 19 (42%) of 45 rumors in August. Between May and July, the share of rumors from abroad to total rumors stood at 41% - 38 out of 92 rumors - according to Akeed’s survey.
The analysis showed that 36 rumors, representing 85.72%, originated on social media platforms, 34 (80.95%) of which were local platforms. Only two rumors came from pages of Jordanians abroad, constituting 4.76%. There were no rumors this time from pages of Israeli activists like “Edy Cohen” who presents himself as “an academic and researcher who specializes in Middle East Affairs.” His page, however, had opinions on Jordanian affairs, but they were not locally circulated.
Rumors from media sources and news websites totaled six rumors, constituting 14.28%, equally split between local sources and media outlets interested in Jordanian affairs, each accounting for 7.14% of the total. The share of media outlets and news websites affiliated with the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition stood at 4.76% of the total (only two rumors), and 40% of rumors from abroad for September.
The number of rumors that revolved around local political issues stood at 12, constituting 28.5% of the total. Nine rumors, representing 21.5% were related to economic issues, while 6 rumors were related to security issues; a share of 14.4%. Social and other issues accounted for the biggest share; at 35.6% or 15 rumors.
By topic, Akeed’s survey for September showed that four rumors revolved around Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz, while two pieces were related to corruption. The other rumors monitored had covered a different topic each, mainly pertaining to social and health issues.
Certain rumors spread far and wide. These included news of re-opening the Nassib-Jabir crossing between Jordan and Syria, which was carried by the Syrian Arab News Agency (NASA). The Jordan government denied the news through State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications, Jumana Ghunaimat, who confirmed the crossing was closed.
A rumor claiming that “the right arm” of the main defendant in the tobacco factory case, Awni Mutee was released on bail”, gained a great deal of attention from social media and some media outlets. This is due to the fact that that the story is connected to a high profile corruption case. The State Military Court’s Attorney General Brigadier General Hazem Al-Majali was quick to deny such claims.
Other rumors that went around during the month included news of a hike in land registration fees, which was denied by the Director General of the Department of Land and Survey Engineer Mueen Al-Sayegh. The Standard and Metrology Organization also refuted rumors that claimed gas stations were selling diluted gasoline.
A rumor that activist Dima Alam Farraj works at Her Majesty Queen Rania’s office was denied through a source at the office. An allegation that the Ministry of Health issued a statement allowing the installation of telecommunications towers on the rooftop of some schools was similarly rejected.
Other rumors that were debunked included those that reported an increase in telecommunications fees and a rise in transportation fees for students using certain routes. Other false rumors claimed that the National Center for Curriculum Development translated curricula from abroad, while others said that a number of Syrian refugees had returned to their country. Another unfounded rumor claimed that a general pardon had been issued.
From Social Media to Mainstream Media
Akeed’s analysis showed that 12 rumors, representing 33.3%, spread from social media platforms to news websites. This indicates that re-sharing content posted on social media platforms on media outlets without verification was still an issue.
Examples include rumors of a growing number of cases of Leishmaniasis, an oil leakage in Azraq, a merger between media institutes, and a rise in the price of cemetery plots. This is in addition to allegations that “the right arm” of Awni Mutee was released on bail and that a car broke into a restaurant in Sweifieh.
Another story, later debunked by the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF), claimed that Al Wala’ Company is owned by the JAF.
In dealing with content produced by social media users, Akeed believes that the general rule is to stay away from sharing until the content is verified through a reliable source. Dependence on social media users as a source of news without taking into account the accuracy of information has led to the spread of false information and rumors.
This was the criteria used by Akeed to verify apparently false information or news and which proved baseless days after they were posted.
Akeed had already developed and published a set of fundamental principles that help verify content, whether visual, written, or audio, produced by users. Before taking a decision to share any content, a set of questions should be raised.