jueves 30 de mayo de 2024
Search
Close this search box.

DANGER: Fooling-Around with Fake

Castries, Saint Lucia: I awoke early on April 1, informing selected friends and colleagues online: ‘Today marks my 48th unbroken year in journalism.’ April 1, 1976 was my first day on the job as Editor of ‘The Crusader’, one of the two major local weekly newspapers, an opposition voice that grew loud in the wilderness of pre-Independent Saint Lucia.

By Earl Bousquet

 

The first day of April is also called ‘All Fools Day’ or ‘Day of the Innocents’ in Cuba and other Latin American nations, a day when people are licensed to play any prank on anyone and get away laughing about it.

Every year, I’m also asked why I ‘chose that date’ to ‘start any job’; and this year an esteemed friend wrote: ‘Congrats! In retrospect, that decision was in no way influenced by today’s date…’

My anniversary is also just another day in the life of a journalist, so I awoke this morning, browsing (as per usual) the day’s News of the World, from the global North and South, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Much was happening that day: Canadian military were in Jamaica to train Caribbean troops for ‘peace-keeping in Haiti’, Israel pulled-out of Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital after destroying it and killing over 400 Palestinians; and the Foreign Affairs Ministers of China and France met in Beijing to discuss future ties after six decades.

I was however startled a few hours later by a brief item that appeared in my WhatsApp mail headlined: ‘Breaking News: item from Dominica’ and the following brief text: ‘After leading a delegation to China (Dominican Prime Minister) Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit has announced his resignation and has named Hon. Vince Henderson as his successor.’

The story was accompanied by photos of Skerrit and Henderson and forwarded to me by a usually-reliable political friend-of-yore in Dominica, who’s also very-close to the four-times re-elected Caribbean Community (Caricom) leader, who took office in 2004 at age 31, as the youngest Caricom leader.

I immediately called to ask: ‘What happened? Your Prime Minister tired?’

My friend simply laughed-out-loud, but considering this ‘lol’ was no joking matter, I asked: ‘What’s so funny?’

And the child in him replied: ‘All Fool’s Day!’

I exhaled -with a loud expletive- but it was just purely-false news.

Near the end of the April 1 afternoon, a headline flashed across my screen saying Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accusing the globally-respected Al Jazeeranews channel of having participated in the October 7, 2023 Hamas attack on Israel and encouraging armed attacks on Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, the Israel PM also calling AJ a ‘terror channel’ and an ‘arm of Hamas’, and planning to ban it.

From my earlier experience with the Dominica fake news item that morning, I consulted Mr. Google on whether Netanyahu actually said what he was quoted as saying and there it was: more than I even thought …

Once upon a time, journalists and media houses cared about unintentionally misinforming readers, listeners and viewers, leading to the norm of publishing a ‘Correction’ when a mistake is discovered or proven, which would require a repeated ‘Apology’, whether published or broadcast.

But not anymore…

Fake News became a virtual and actual universal reality since Donald Trump’s entry into US politics and dominated his four-year Presidency. So-much-so, that CNN developed a ‘Fact Checker’ program and the BBC introduced a similar ‘BBC Verify’ program, both (and other major international broadcasters) to help guide viewers and listeners through facts and fiction.

Fake News is now being sanctified with newly-coined phrases to simply con people with ‘Half Truths’ and ‘Alternative Facts’ in the name of ‘Free Speech’.

However, in an age when wars are fought with drones, in a world where Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence are used to program robots to host press conferences, GPT is used to create images of people doing and saying things they never did: like Donald Trump promoting his Second Coming with fake images of him meeting Black Americans who never met him, or ever existed.

IT and AI are also used to augment reality according to determined images, whether in Gaza or Ukraine.

In Haiti, news agencies from the Global North are also manipulating the vast divide between truth and lies to manage and dominate the narrative and paint all who oppose foreign intervention as supportive of so-called ‘Gang Leaders’ ‘seeking power’ in ‘a failed state’ -and therefore needing outside help, from friends and enemies alike.

Throughout the day, even while feverishly fingering this article into my keyboard, I asked myself whether I was guilty of what one friend described as ‘Trying to crack a peanut with a sledgehammer.’

I might very-well be guilty-as-charged in this case, as I grew-up in a world where ‘Poisson d’Avril’ (French) was an annual jest between children born in the 1970s, who’re now the new ‘older generation’.

But in an age where leaders can also tend to overreact to headlines and wars can be fought over unverified online media reports, it’s important for the likes of WhatsApp and Caribbean service providers like FLOW and Digicel, to apply in the Caribbean the same principles applied to handling information about Gaza and Ukraine, by also immediately removing Caribbean Fake News.

Fooling-around with Fake News is as dangerous as deliberately misleading, making falsities believable -and believed- in the real world.

In my book, no platform should entertain global circulation of an untruth of this type that can have international repercussions, especially where ‘All Fools Day’ isn’t part of the national cultural fabric.

The item about the resignation of PM Skerrit surely turned ‘All Fools Day’ into a day-long nightmare for Dominica’s leader, who had to assure important callers from near and far, including China and at home, it was Fake News.

But it also reiterated the need for the permanent ‘Operation Truth’ agreed to in Havana in January, now reflected in this special new Prensa Latina (www.prensa-latina.cu) platform, Voces del Sur Global!

Identificador Sitio web Ecos del Sur
The Voice

The Voice

Periódico nacional de Santa Lucía desde 1885. Con sede en Castries, trata temas políticos, económicos, culturales y deportivos. También aborda asuntos del Caribe y el mundo, en sentido general.
últimos artículos :

……………………………………………….

Las opiniones expresadas en estos artículos son responsabilidad exclusiva de sus autores.

……………………………………………….