In the following summary, we cover major disinformation trends observed to prevail in the first week of September along with important recommendations.
One of the issues that had been circulating on social media platforms, mainly Facebook, was a post saying “the Ethiopian and Israeli air forces agreed to work together in order to keep the regional peace”. The content, which was shared on August 31, 2021, had been backed with a compilation of five images in a bid to support the claim.
Nevertheless, a reverse image search of the pictures revealed that the images were not related to the specific issue.
The first two images were taken on October 3, 2019, while a Casa CN235 and Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft of French landed at Dire Dawa airport. While the third image taken 7 years ago is noted to show a former Ethiopian Air Force pilot who defected to Canada in 2003, the fourth image, back from July 22, 2008, is noticed to be used in a number of online sources that attached different stories to it, making it arbitrary to identify the right story behind the picture.
Hence, analyzing the pictures and relating their identity with the story they are referenced to, HaqCheck has rendered the post False.
The other disinformation trend that had been happening this week was an enormous viral circulation of hoax Telegram messages. Though the Telegram messages had been disseminated in different channels with the name of different organizations, they have similarities in nature. The channels are created in the names and branding identity of Commercial bank of Ethiopia, Abay bank, and Amhara bank. The Amharic text messages sent via Telegram offer people attractive prizes on the condition that they join their channels and share the messages with others.
In this way, the messages try to lure people by listing five different attractive prizes ranging from the first prize of a 300,00 Br three-wheeler vehicle to be awarded for 200 winners along with a package of housewares worth 50,000 Br each to the last offer of 5,000 Br for 100 people and a number of smartphone prizes. However, the posts remind people to comply with its instructions in order to qualify for the prizes: joining the channel and inviting more than 50 people by following the shared link.
However, it was confirmed, from the website of CBE and Abay bank, that the messages are not from the official channels of the banks and the banks are not giving prizes over a telegram promotion.
Furthermore, Dr. Letenah Ejigu Wale, a board member of Amhara Bank told HaqCheck that the telegram posts are not real, referring to them as “hoaxes'' and confirmed that Amhara bank has not created any social media accounts yet.
In this regard, the messages are rated as Hoaxes.
HaqCheck has been following up on such disinformation trends and creating awareness. A recent scam on social media platforms could also be debunked in a short time.
In general, the public needs to be aware of such scams and hoaxes on social media and should be cautious in its interaction with the pages. Hence, before acting upon any post or message are advised to consider the following tips
- Check the web address (URL) and domains.
- Stay alert and be skeptical, know who your providers are, and cross-check from the impersonated organization.
- Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately, take your time to check and cross-check the identity of the sender.
- Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
- Most organizations realize the potential for scamming and now don’t request confidential data online. So don’t offer up anything about yourself, even your mother’s maiden name. You can also contact the organization independently if you have any doubts.
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.