The Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” spotted an increase in the number of rumors that appeared in November reaching a total of 35 rumors compared to 26 rumors in October. Rumors published through media outlets in November marked an increase of 48.5% compared to October’s 12%.
“Akeed” has developed a systematic method in identifying rumors defined in this report as “incorrect information that is associated with Jordan in general or related to Jordanian interests that reached more than 5,000 people via digital media means”.
Usually, rumors spread during atypical conditions such as crisis, wars, natural disasters etc. However, this does not mean that rumors disappear once these conditions do. It is known that rumors propagate more in certain social, political and cultural environments but remain affected by the level of ambiguity and the magnitude of the subject’s impact.
The study showed that the speed in which rumors circulate has fluctuated over the last four months in direct connection to events, crises and the nature of prevailing conditions. According to “Akeed”, the number of rumors reached 45 in August then declined in September to reach 42 and further dropped during October to reach a total of 26 rumors.
Before publishing, “Akeed” urges media outlets and platforms to abide by professional and scientific guidelines in order to avoid turning into a source of rumors and accordingly contribute to further exposure of these rumors by broadcasting them to a wider audience.
Local vs. Foreign Sources
Using quantitative and qualitative methods, the survey covered rumors that circulated through digital media (websites and social networks). Results showed that local sources (social platforms or news sites) had the highest percentage of these rumors; 31 rumors (88.6%) in November. Rumors generating from foreign sources continued to decline; with only 4 rumors (11.4%) since October.
Source by Method of Publication
The study showed that 18 rumors (51.5%) originated from Social Media, 17 of which were from local social platforms (94.5%), while only one rumor (5.5%) originated from a page run by Jordanian expats.
There has been an increase in the number of rumors published by media outlets and news websites with a total of 17 rumors (48.5%); 14 of which were from local sources (82.3%), while three (17.7%) were from Arab media outlets that covered topics related to Jordanian affairs.
The total number of rumors related to security status reached 10 rumors (28.5%). Local political affairs was the subject of 9 rumors (25.7%), and 8 rumors (22.9%) were about social and economic issues.
One of the most circulated rumors shared through social media platforms and published by local media contained a document taken from a Syrian news website listing the names of 9,000 Jordanian citizens who are –allegedly– wanted by the Syrian regime.
Several local media outlets refuted the rumor based on the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Majid Al-Qatarna, who also told “Akeed” that the "Jordanian Foreign Ministry did not issue any official response regarding the list, since it was published by a non-official website”, something that was also confirmed by the Syrian Chargé d’Affaires to Jordan, Ayman Alloush, who correspondingly denied the rumor.
Another issue that also fell under the rumor category was that of the “water cutout” in both Amman and Zarqa cities. Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation along with "Miyahuna" announced the suspension of water-pumping from the Disi Water Conveyance Project for one week due to maintenance. However, media outlets chose the term "water cutout" as an alternative to what “Miyahuna” described as a lack of water supply.
Ministry of Water and Irrigation Spokesperson, Omar Salameh, told “Akeed” that "Amman has three sources of water supply; Zay Station, Zara Ma’in Sation, and Disi Water Project. Hence, suspending water-pumping from Disi will only reduce the amount of water supplied but will not interrupt it.”
Also, a number of incorrect information spread through local media and social platforms regarding the “National Military Service" which was announced by Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Razzaz, as part of the government's priority plan for the next two years.
Inaccurate news was mainly about the program being mandatory, which was soon denied by the Jordanian Minister of Labor, Sameer Murad. It is a voluntary program that will not substitute the "flag service" program, Murad clarified. Moreover, inconsistent information circulated about the participating age and the duration of the program.
From Social Media to Media
A total of nine rumors (25.7%) that originated from social media were soon adopted by news websites, indicating that media outlets sharing unverified content posted on social media is still an ongoing issue.
A clear example of this was the rumor addressing the “closing of the express bus lane” (also known as Journalism Tunnel).
The Municipality of Greater Amman (GAM) denied closing the tunnel, explaining that “heavy rainfall has caused a base-course gravel to drift from a nearby gas station and resulted in blocking the drainage system in the tunnel.”
Several news websites also published an “anonymous document” that was presented as an official one. The document proposed several amendments to the current electoral law which could be adopted and implemented in the next round of parliamentary elections. It included amendments such as reducing seats in the House of Representatives from 130 to 96. Spokesperson for the Jordanian Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs, Sami Mahasneh, told Akeed that “the government has nothing to do with the un-sourced document which was published in the media about a new electoral bill”, adding that “the subject of amending the law has not been formally discussed until now”.