Akeed –Aya Khawaldeh
The number of rumors slightly rose to 36 in June from 35 rumors in May, an analysis by Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” showed. The vast majority of rumors; 86.2% were circulated on social media while media outlets were responsible for five rumors in June, the report showed.
Rumors revolving around social issues topped the list of rumors that went around in June, accounting for 36.2% of the total. This compares with only one rumor in May that made up 2.8% of rumors for that month, the analysis showed. The month- on-month rise is attributed to widespread speculation about the Eid Holiday, Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts, and the General Secondary Certificate Examination (Tawjihi).
The quantitative and qualitative analysis examined rumors circulated across news websites, social media, and media outlets, both local and foreign. It found out that 35 rumors came from local sources in June, against one only from abroad.
The June figures revealed that 31 rumors came from social media, 30 of which came from local social platforms and only one rumor came from Arab and foreign social media – close to May figures.
The number of rumors detected in media outlets and news website dropped to only five in June against seven rumors in the previous month. It is noticeable that no rumors were detected in Arab and “Israeli” media.
Most rumors monitored in June; 36.2%, were related to social issues, while the number of those revolving around political issues stood at 10, making up 27.8% of the total. Only five rumors, or 13.8%, were related to security issues and eight rumors dealt with economic issues (22.2%).
From “Social Networks” to Media Outlets
Akeed’s analysis showed that five rumors, representing 14.7%, spread from social media platforms to news websites. In May, four rumors (11.5%) initially appeared in social media then on news websites.
Key of these was a rumor claiming that the management of Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts signed a deal worth JD80,000 with an Arab signer to perform for one night at the festival. The false information, which was not obtained from reliable sources, was later rebutted by the Festival’s Executive Director Ayman Samawi.
The withdrawal of Labor Minister Nidal Bataineh from a graduation ceremony held at Al-Yarmouk University following a dispute with University President Zeidan Kafafi was also widely circulated on local news websites and media outlets. In an official statement, the Labor Ministry debunked the rumor, which was later debunked by the University President.
Key Rumors in June
Rumors around Economic Issues: A key rumor that went viral on social media said that Jordanians whose salaries are less than JD500 will receive JD100 - with support from the EU.
The government rejected the news as baseless, noting the supplementary support program is subject to official rules and guidelines.
Other rumors circulated on social networking platforms said Jordanian universities receive funds from UNESCO against each student enrolled. The claim was refuted by the Ministry of Higher Education which explained that the agency support universities in organizing conferences, seminars, and workshops, and that it does not pay for student monthly tuition fees.
Political Rumors: Another rumor on social media platforms claimed that the Jordanian nationality was granted to 700 persons during the tenure of former Minister of Interior Samir Habashneh. The rumor was copied from a page run by a Jordanian expatriate. Habashneh dismissed the news in a press release posted on media outlets, adding that during his term, only 20 persons, who met the set criteria, acquired citizenship through naturalization.
Akeed detected another political rumor involving Jordan’s ambassador to Bahrain which said that ambassador Rami Wreikat hosted a banquet for the Israeli delegation taking part in the Economic Workshop held in Bahrain. Sources close to the diplomat rejected the news adding that Wreikat was not part of the official Jordanian delegation to the workshop.
Social Rumors: false news about the death of Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser, which was initially posted by a local daily and later spread to social media, was found to be untrue. It later turned out that the poet was alive and recovering.
The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority was also quick to deny that the obscene video circulated on social was shot on the beaches of Aqaba. The authorities said that the type of sand and the water bridge shown in the clip – among other evidence, prove it was shot elsewhere.
Rumors about Security Issues: Jerash Governor Maamoun Lozi rejected a social media rumor which claimed that the ATM of a Jerash-based bank was subject to armed robbery. He explained though that the security department was looking into the loss of JD75,360 from the Bank’s coffers.
In dealing with content produced by social media users, Akeed believes that the general rule is to stay away from sharing posts 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.
For the purpose of the analysis, Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” 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. crises, wars, and natural disasters. This does not mean that rumors will not spawn when things are 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.