Akeed –Aya Khawaldeh
The number of rumors continued an upward streak, rising to 48 in September compared with 42 in August and 43 in July. In May and June, the number of rumors stood at 35 and 36 consecutively, a report by Jordan Media Monitor, Akeed, showed.
Figures for September also revealed that mainstream media played a smaller role in circulating rumors; it was responsible for sharing 8 rumors down from 18 in August and 12 rumors in July.
A total of 21 rumors during the month revolved around the teachers’ strike, which began on Sept. 5th, the study noted. Half the rumors in September were related to politics, while security issues were not a popular topic for rumors.
For the purpose of the analysis, which is conducted every month, 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.”
It is worth noting that, 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 also 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.
Akeed’s quantitative and qualitative analysis examined rumors circulated across news websites, social and mainstream media. It emerged that the majority of rumors (44 representing 91.7% of the total) came from local sources. This compares with only four rumors, representing 8.3%, from outside Jordan.
September figures showed that 40 rumors, or 83.3% came from social networking sites; 38 of which originated from local social platforms and only two rumors initially appeared on Arab social networks and web pages run by Jordanians abroad.
Eight rumors spread from mainstream media during the month in question, six of which came from local media outlets and 2 by Arab media outlets.
Fabricated stories revolving around political issues accounted for half of the rumors in September - totaling 24 rumors. Ten rumors, or 20.9% were related to social issues and eight fake news were related to economic issues. Rumors about security issues came in last place, with only 6 rumors representing 12.5%.
From “Social Networks” to Media Outlets
Six rumors, or 12.5%, spread from social networking platforms to news websites in September which is close to the August figures – 7 rumors representing 16.7%.
Images showing a mosque loudspeaker with bullet holes were among the widely-circulated rumors by local media outlets in September. Akeed cross-checked the images, which first appeared on Facebook pages outside Jordan, and showed that the shooting incident took place in Maysan Governorate in Iraq on April 23th. The images were initially posted by local news websites in Iraq, according to Akeed.
Several news website were also quick to spread information posted by a journalist, meant as a joke, on his official Facebook page where he wrote that “the 50% pay increase for teachers has been approved”. The media shared the news given that it came from a “reliable source”. The incident prompted Jordan Teachers Syndicate (JTS) to dismiss it as incorrect. The journalist later clarified that it was merely a joke.
A video that harms teachers’ activism, posted on a fake Facebook account of Secretary General of the Islamic Action Front Engineer Murad Al-Adayleh, was also shared by news websites without verification. In statements to the press, Al-Adayleh explained that the account was fake.
A hand-written table showing the percentages of pay increases granted to teachers based on their grades – which were approved during a Cabinet meeting chaired by the Premier on Sept. 29th - turned to be incorrect. Yet, the news was circulated by news websites. The Premier announced the correct figures in a televised interview.
Likewise, media outlets circulated an official letter issued by the Ministry of Education stating that teachers will not be allowed to take unpaid leaves, effective Sept. 25th, 2019. The post, which first appeared on social media, linked the decision to the teachers’ strike. The Ministry’s spokesperson Waleed Al-Jallad explained that this is an administrative procedure that is taken by the Ministry at the beginning of each scholastic year.
Key Issues and Rumors:
Rumors around Economic Issues:
Key rumors that were shared on social media and media outlets:
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.
Furthermore, the fact-checking portal has 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.