Year Kicks off with 30 Rumors

Akeed – Aya Khawldeh 

 

 

The number of rumors fell to 30 in January compared to 46 rumors a year earlier, Akeed’s monthly statistical rumor report revealed.

 

Media outlets were responsible for spreading a third of rumors in January 2020. The report also found that the majority of rumors revolved around economic issues with a share of nine rumors, representing 30% of the total during the month in question.

 

It is worth noting that health rumors, which have been added to the list of rumors monitored by Akeed, accounted for 16.7% of the total in January. This came on higher speculation about the spread of Coronavirus - and other health issues

 

Rumor Sources 

Akeed’s quantitative and qualitative analysis examined rumors circulated across news sites, social as well mainstream media. It found that 90% of the rumors in January, totaling 27, came from local sources. Only three rumors, representing 10%, came from outside Jordan.

 

 

Dissemination Medium

 

Figures for January indicated that 20 rumors, making 66.7% of the total, got started on social networking forums, including 18 rumors that originated from local social platforms. Two rumors, 10% of the total, were posted on pages run by Jordanian expatriates and on Arab social networks, Akeed noted.

 

Ten out of the 30 rumors spread through mainstream media during the month, nine of which initially appeared in local media outlets and one posted by Hebrew media outlets.

 

Rumor Topics

Unsubstantiated reports around economic and social issues accounted for one third of rumors in January; with 9 rumors (30%) about economic issues and 6 social rumors (20%).  Politics, health, and security had an equal share of rumors; 5 rumors each representing 16.7%.

 

  

From “Social Networks” to Media Outlets

 

Two rumors, constituting 6.7%, spread from social networking platforms to news websites in January, up from 4.3% in December 2019 when two out of 46 rumors found their way to media outlets.  

These include:

 

A report claiming that an Iraqi student was blackmailed by her teachers at school. The Iraqi embassy in Amman said the media has copied the fake news report from Facebook without verifying its content, and refuted the claim that the girl was subject to blackmail anywhere in Jordan.

 

A video showing a group of young men playing in snow allegedly in southern Jordan after a recent snowfall. Akeed found that the footage was old as it dates back to 2015 and was shot in the governorate of Mafraq

 

Key Issues and Rumors:

 

Rumors around Economic Issues:

 

A false news story alleging that plots of lands were sold in “Dana Biosphere Reserve” to a foreign investor, which was dismissed by official source as baseless. No land was sold to any foreign investor in the area in past years, confirmed the sources.

A WhatsApp message claiming that Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JoPetrol) is distributing 3,000 free fuel vouchers in support of Jordanians. The company denied the news in a press statement adding that those responsible for the spread of the false advertising will be prosecuted.

A fabricated news article which said that the social security tax rate will be increased was the subject of another rumor identified in January. The Social Security Corporation director general dismissed the news as groundless during a press a conference.

Political Rumors

Jordan’s plan to retract its decision to sever ties with the West Bank was another key rumor posted on social media in January. In a meeting with reporters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi described the news as utterly baseless.

A social media post claiming that a former Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker were involved in the sale of 160 Trella trucks relieved of customs duty to a well-known truck dealer for astronomical prices. The government said that no such exemptions were granted to Trella trucks and that any relief from customs is based on provisions laid out in the law. 

A rumor swirling in the last few months about the government’s plan to privatize the education and health sectors, was again dismissed by the Premier during a Parliament session. The Prime Minister told MPs that the government has no such plans but that it is keen to empower and improve the performance and efficiency of these vital sectors.

 

 

Social Rumors

A widely circulated weather report which said that areas that are 300 meters above sea level in Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon are expected to receive heavy snowfall. Jordan Meteorological Department, which rejected the false report, explained that the lowest point in the Capital Amman is 650 meters above sea level.

 

A social media post attributed to a local satellite station which claimed that public institutions will be closed on January 9th 2020. The news station explained that the post is inaccurate as it was based on an older report where a public holiday was announced on the same day in 2019. It further called on its followers to cross-check news through its official websites and pages.

Photos and footages purportedly of a group of hungry and frail-looking lions and tigers in a zoo in Jordan. The truth is that both the photos and videos were shot in a zoo in Sudan’s capital Khartoum where the country is suffering from tough economic conditions.  

 

 

Health Rumors

A rumor claiming that cases of Coronavirus were found in Jordan was strongly dismissed by the Ministry of Health, which said that only cases of H1N1 were registered during the first half of January.

Another rumor debunked by the Ministry revolved around warnings to Jordanians that the Coronavirus can spread through Chinese products. Assistant Secretary-General for Primary Healthcare Affairs Dr. Adnan Ishaq clarified that the virus does not spread by coming into contact with clothes or other material. The wildlife trade and a seafood market in Wuhan – China is blamed for the Coronavirus outbreak, declared an international health emergency. 

A false news article about water pollution in Kafranja Dam due to sewage leak was swiftly rejected by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. The news was old, commented the Ministry, adding that regular tests are conducted to ensure the water quality in the Dam.

 

Security Rumors:

A report alleging that a man burned his wife and children alive in Karak governorate. Security sources explained that they responded to a fire that broke in an apartment in Karak and that no injuries were reported.

Old photos and videos of a multi-vehicle collision in Ma’an government caused by unstable weather conditions. The Public Security Department said the video was old and was shot in a neighboring Arab country in 2018.

 

 

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 reliable sources.

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.

 

For the purpose of the analysis, which is conducted every month, Akeed has developed a methodology for detecting rumors. In this report, a rumor is defined as “incorrect information which is related to Jordanian public affairs 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.

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