December 13, 2021

Last week in disinformation: week two of December

HAQCHECKReports

Photoshopped image, false video, and misleading headline was the major disinformation trend during the past week.

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By HaqCheck

HaqCheck is an Ethiopia based fact-checking project that verifies media content from social to the mainstream. We fact-check in English and four local languages, widely spoken in the Horn of Africa.

Last week in disinformation: week two of December

Photoshopped images

The tendency of using false and photoshopped images to support claims had continued last week. HaqCheck fact-checked a claim that used a photoshopped false image to prove a claim. A Facebook post appeared on Dec 11 sharing an image along with a claim that TPLF forces robbed properties and transported them with vehicles.

The post was made amid unconfirmed reports of robberies and vandalism by TPLF forces in Amhara and Afar Regional States. The image shared along with the Facebook post was photoshopped and manipulated as if the license plate of the pickup vehicle is from Tigray. It had received over 240 reactions and more than 50 accounts shared it.

However, according to HaqCheck’s investigation, the image was learned to be taken from another previous publication and doesn’t support the claim that TPLF forces transported properties they robbed from Afar and Amhara. The image was first published on the Internet by a website along with an article that explains traffic accidents during Christmas in South Africa.

Original image

Photoshopped image

False videos

Another social media disinformation trend last week was the use of false videos along with claims.

The first video-related claim was that Martin Plaut, a British journalist who is highly engaged in Ethiopian and Eritrean politics, was recently pelted with a milkshake by an Eritrean. Some Facebook posts emerged with the same claim that the journalist was harassed with a bucketful of milkshake and wastewater. The posts were viral and many had shared them on their respective walls.

HaqCheck, however, investigated the Facebook posts and confirmed that the claim is FALSE. The video posted by both Facebook pages doesn't show Martin Plaut recently being splashed with a milkshake in harassment. The video clip was taken from a source dating back three years ago. On Nov 30, 2018, Martin PlautPlaut was splashed with a bucketful of milkshake by a man called Yakob Gabriel. The video that shows the happening was posted on YouTube a day later on Dec 1, 2018. These two recent Facebook posts took the video from three years ago and claimed that the video was an account of a recent incident.

Disinformation without explicit claim

HaqCheck observed last week that a new technique of disinformation dissemination is trending. Fake videos circulated without explicit claims and text. 

Last week video clips of the same kind were released by various accounts and different social media platforms. The video clips show a drone attack during a war that was actually taken in the Nagorno Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia a year ago. The video was edited with Ethiopian songs embedded with implicit and sarcastic phrases. This is somewhat a clever way of dis-informing social media users by posing the video as if it shows TPLF forces being attacked with military drones.

The video is found to be recorded a year ago and it is from the war between the two neighboring Eastern European countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan. At the time, there were reports that Azerbaijan employed military drones it acquired from Turkey against Armenian forces.

Misleading news headline

HaqCheck observed various news outlets making misleading headlines when they try to come up with sharper angles to their news articles. As part of this, HaqCheck fact-checked a claim with a misleading headline. The headline of the news article shared on Facebook says that Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively became the first and the second from Africa with the number of journalists they arrested. The news article used recent data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as a reference.

The content of the article states that Eritrea and Ethiopia respectively become the first and the second countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by detaining journalists. There is a big difference between the headline and the content of the news article. Sab-Sahara is a region that is found south of the Saharan desert and the region doesn’t include Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.

Therefore, HaqCheck investigated the underlying fact and rated it as MISLEADING HEADLINE.

Recommendations

Social media users should be very careful of the content they consume on social media platforms. Many false and misleading spectrums of information circulate on social media with different tactics intended to deceive users. Thus, they should look for the original sources of the videos, images, or numerical information they find on their respective social media news feeds. They should also try to understand the motive and intention of social media posts and the people behind the posts.

News outlets should refrain from making misleading headlines. As the media literacy in the country is low, using misleading headlines and overstated news angles can mislead many social media users. Therefore, news outlets should use accurate and vivid headlines to articles so that people can easily and correctly understand the crux of the news article.

Social media influencers should be responsible while producing social media content. They should not make false and violence-invoking content. Rather, they need to responsibly nurture their respective audience with accurate information.

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HaqCheck is a local multilingual fact-checking project based in Ethiopia, formed inside Addis Zeybe’s newsroom, now Inform Africa’s Counter Disinformation Project - a board-led Civil Society Organization (CSO) - dedicated to verifying media contents from social to the mainstream. HaqCheck works in collaboration with media outlets to monitor media contents in English and four local languages (Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Tigrigna, and Somali).

This report is produced with the support of UNESCO under the #CoronavirusFacts: Addressing the ‘Disinfodemic’ on COVID-19 in conflict-prone Environments that the UNESCO Addis Ababa Office is implementing in Ethiopia with financial support from the European Union (EU). The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO or the EU concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO or The European Union and do not commit these organizations in any way.