Akeed –Aya Khawaldeh -
Rumors continued to rise for the third month in a row reaching 43 in July compared to 36 rumors in June and 35 rumors in May, Jordan Media Monitor “Akeed” said in a report.
Of the total, 31 rumors representing 72.1% were circulated on social media in July. Twelve rumors, constituting 27.9%, appeared in local media outlets during the same month against only five rumors, or 13.8% of total rumors in June, the report unveiled.
Rumors revolving around political issues topped the list of rumors that went around in July, amounting to 14, with a share of 32.5% of total rumors. Rumors about social issues receded to only seven, or 16.2% from 13 rumors or 36.2%, reported in June.
Akeed’s quantitative and qualitative analysis examined rumors circulated across news websites, social and mainstream media. It emerged that all rumors in July came from local sources; i.e. social platforms or news websites.
The July figures revealed that 31 rumors, or 72.1% came from social networking sites – all local.
The month also witnessed a rise in the number of rumors circulated in mainstream media and news website to 12 rumors or 27.9% from five rumors, or 13.8% in June. Seven of these appeared in local media outlets in July. No rumors were detected in Arab and “Israeli” media during the month in question.
Political rumors ran rampant in July, making the majority or 32.5% of the total. Fabricated stories revolving around economic issues came in second place with 12 stories or 28% of the total. Ten rumors, or 23.3%, were related to security issues while the share of social issues of total rumors stood at 16.2%.
From “Social Networks” to Mainstream Media
Akeed’s report uncovered that four rumors, representing 9.3%, spread from social networking platforms to news websites in July against five rumors, or 14.7%, the month before.
Key rumors that initially appeared on social media and were later shared by other media outlets included a report claiming that Al-Husseini Mosque was closed down following a fire that erupted in the mosque’s library. The news was dismissed and the story was later removed from news websites.
Another unsubstantiated report said that 300 students scored 99% - out of 100% - in the General Secondary Certificate Examination (Tawjihi), but was later rebutted by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry clarified that the final statistics have not been compiled yet, adding that they will be issued following the next round of exams.
Key Rumors in July
Rumors around Economic Issues: A key rumor that went viral on social media and was also posted by local media outlets revolved around the hike in the price of dairy products. Unverified reports quoted dairy companies as saying that the government has slapped new taxes on the dairy industry, effective this year. Official sources explained that the hike in taxes was imposed in 2018 and that no new taxes were levied in 2019.
An audio recording purportedly of government officials forcing dairy companies to raise their prices was also widely shared on social media - which was similarly rejected.
Other social media reports raised the flag when they alleged that bad eggs constitute 25% of daily egg production. The Jordanian Poultry Producers Union said the information was far from accurate.
For its part, the Land Transport Regulatory Commission refuted fabricated reports which alleged that new licenses were issued for the operation of vehicles - which would be part of the smart app fleet. Several news websites had earlier said “the Commission is planning to add 15,000 new vehicles to the smart app fleet.”
Political Rumors: Claims of a large-scale naturalization whereby Palestinians, Syrians, Sudanese, and Yemenis acquired the Jordanian passport were debunked as misinformation. The authorities stressed that the Jordanian citizenship can be granted to investors - subject to certain rules and conditions.
The rumor initially surfaced in June, which alleged back then that the Jordanian nationality was granted to 700 persons during the tenure of former Minister of Interior Samir Habashneh between 2003 and 2005. Habashneh dismissed the news in a press release.
Another rumor detected in July claimed the Social Security Corporation requested the public sector to provide personnel data to retire males who completed 25 years in service and women who completed 20 years. The report, which flew like wild fire on social media and sparked a wave of reactions, was rejected as baseless by the Corporation.
The Integration and Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC) was not spared either. A news report stated that the (IACC) dispatched a team of investigators to the Audit Bureau on complaints filed by employees pertaining to the travels of the Bureaus President and other staff members. Akeed cross-checked the report and proved it was incorrect. Bureau President Abed Kharabsheh had earlier clarified to Akeed that employees can travel only after they obtain a permission from the Prime Minister and in accordance with rules and regulations.
Social Rumors: Local social media users have widely shared a report saying the Ministry of Education would announce the results of the General Secondary Certificate Examination (Tawjihi) on Thursday, July 18th. The Ministry, however, said they would be announced on Thursday, July 25th.
A photo showing a frail-looking lion, purportedly in Russeifa Zoo, caught the attention of social media users and was quickly shared by some news websites as well. The Global Village of the Animal said the animal was not kept in the Zoo.
A report on social media saying the salaries of beneficiaries from the National Aid Found would be paid through e-fawateercom, proved incorrect. Government officials explained that the electronic bill payment service had nothing to do with this. It further noted that the Central Bank of Jordan has ordered banks to open basic bank accounts for beneficiaries without additional costs for citizens or the Fund.
Other fabricated stories said Khirfan Street in Jabal Amman area, First Circle, was closed in order to allow for shooting the second part of the controversial drama “Jinn”. The security agencies explained that the street was shut for only two hours to shoot another movie “Mitra”.
Rumors about Security Issues: Security agencies refuted several old rumors and video clips including photos of a traffic accidents that resulted in 9 casualties and a video showing an attack on a man in Zarqa. Another video clip showing someone tampering with a taxi meter turned out to have taken place in 2017. Security officials also clarified that a video clip featuring citizens running towards a fuel tank that turned upside down did not take place in Southern Jordan as claimed.
For the purpose of the analysis, Jordan Media Credibility Monitor “Akeed” developed a methodology for detecting 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.”
In dealing with content produced by social media users, Akeed believes 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 leads to the spread of false information and rumors, explains Akeed.
It is worth noting that Akeed has 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, advises Akeed.
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, according to the online portal.