Combating disinformation and fake news, theme of meeting in Tunis


TUNISIA AFRIQUE PRESS– Participants in a meeting in Tunis on Tuesday on « trust in the media and disinformation in the context of a pandemic » were unanimous in stressing the need to fight against the spread of fake news.

They believe that fake news, which circulate very easily thanks to social media, risk compromising citizens’ trust in the media.
 Many Tunisians say they only get their information from Facebook and Twitter. For them, social media are becoming the main source of information and thus see the credibility of the media, all media combined, in sharp decline.

The conference, which was attended by academics, media and civil society representatives, took place at a time when platforms specialising in the detection of fake news are experiencing a « remarkable » boom, not to mention the ongoing training sessions for journalists on the mechanisms for fighting fake news.   Alexandre Rieper, President of the Tunis office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which organised the event, warned against the risks that can arise from the dissemination of fake news and their impact on the democratic transition process in Tunisia.

He stressed the impact of fake news on public opinion, especially during election campaigns, in a context of social tension, or even a pandemic.   According to him, campaigns to disseminate false information intended to influence voters’ behaviour have been denounced before.   « Users of social media have been subjected to heavy exposure to rumours, » he cautioned.   Nouha Belaid, an academic, referred in this connection to the « infodemia » that accompanied the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. She explained that it was a rapid and widespread spread of a mixture of both accurate and inaccurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic.   « Hundreds of articles on fake cures and false claims about the origins of the pandemic have been reported, » she said.   These fake news stories, circulating among the daily news flow on the web, are often difficult for the Internet user to verify, she said. Hence the need for the media to have the necessary tools and mechanisms to verify the veracity of « dubious » information, she pleaded.   For Nouha Belaid, the fight against fake news is not only the responsibility of the media. « Citizens and components of civil society are invited to play a more active role in this sense, » she said.   A manual entitled « How to verify information in the era of fake news » was presented on the sidelines of the conference. It is a practical guide for journalists and media specialising in fact-checking.    

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