Seminar on “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace” held in Tehran University

Seminar on “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace” held in Tehran University

The 11th session of the series of Scientific Seminars of “Religion and cyberspace” entitled “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace”, was held by the Office of Islamic Studies and Seminary Communications of the Cyberspace Research Institute.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): The 11th session of the series of Scientific Seminars of “Religion and cyberspace” entitled “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace”, was held by the Office of Islamic Studies and Seminary Communications of the Cyberspace Research Institute.

The seminar was held online and in Arabic at the headquarters of Office of Islamic Studies and Seminary Communications of the Cyberspace Research Institute, in collaboration with the AhlulBayt (a.s.) News Agency - ABNA, the Heyat Online website, and the Supreme Leader Representation in Farabi Campus of University of Tehran.

At first, introducing the office and its activities, Saeed Mahdian, the scientific secretary, on the topic of the webinar said, “The purpose of spreading fake news is often to create chaos and achieve political and financial goals.”

Following the seminar, introducing the CEO of ABNA News Agency, the expert of the Department for International Affairs of the Office of Cyberspace Studies added, “In this seminar, Hojat al-Islam Dr. Hosseini, with more than thirty years of experience in the field of media, journalism and magazines, will share his experiences with those interested in this field.”

At the beginning of his speech, appreciating the Cyberspace Research Institute for holding this seminar, Hojat al-Islam Dr. Hosseini suggested that the office, as a scientific center, hold meetings with experts and specialists in the field of “Media Literacy”.

Then, pointing to the great importance of the subject of the seminar, that is, “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace”, he said, “Due to the many changes that cyberspace causes in individual, social, family, scientific, practical, cultural, political and economic life, and in all aspects of our lives, its importance is increasing day by day.”

“Unfortunately, today, the masses of fake news make it difficult for people, and sometimes even elites, experts, journalists, and news network owners, to distinguish them from real and authentic news. There is a lot of fake news, and it does not matter if the source of the news is satellite channels or news sites, newspapers, and magazines. There is no difference between them. Because there is so much fake news in cyberspace, it is difficult to distinguish it from real and authentic news,” he added.

“There is no difference between developed and developing countries in this regard. Even in the United States, as one of the most developed countries, a 2016 survey revealed that Facebook’s top 20 fake news about the US presidential election were shared more than 20 real news of the mainstream media,” he stressed.

In order to enter the discussion and before dealing with the solutions to counter the fake news, the CEO of AhlulBayt (a.s.) News Agency - ABNA considered it necessary to state 4 introductions:

Introduction 1: The nature and necessity of recognizing fake news

Distorted news, fake news, false news, deceptive news, or misleading news is news that consists of untrue or misleading information.

This news content is not limited to traditional media, such as newspapers, radio, and television. Rather, it is published on social media and the Internet more than traditional media and official news agencies.

Due to the inappropriate use of the term “fake news” by Donald Trump, former President of the United States, the use of the term was banned for some time.

As the British government banned the use of the term “fake news” in official documents on the grounds that it was “an unpleasant and misleading term that confuses all kinds of misinformation, from true error to foreign interference in democratic processes.”

The regulation implemented following a recommendation by the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport that the term be avoided. As you know, the issue of fake news had a great impact on the previous and current US presidential elections, as well as the British and European elections.

Introduction 2: Motivation to publish fake news

Fake news is usually spread with the aim of misleading and harming a system or an individual or achieving political or financial goals.

Introduction 3: Types of fake news

There are many types of fake news. Some media experts consider there to be more than 7 types. But I believe there are 5 types of fake news:

Misleading news,

Humorous or ironic news,

News in the wrong context. News in the wrong context. That is, in this type, the content is flawless, but the false evidence associated with the content is flawed,

Rumors. That is, news that people publish orally and do not know their sources,

Manipulated news. This is the case when real information or photos are manipulated. You have often seen manipulated images on social networks, Facebook, WhatsApp, and the like. That is, the image is attributed to a person but is fake.

Introduction 4: Fake news from the perspective of Islamic Sharia

There is a need for more time and a special seminar on the positions of Islamic Sharia on false speech and writing. Hence, I will mention only some verses and Hadiths in this regard.

It is clear that lying is one of the great sins and leads man to commit other great sins. Therefore, this famous hadith has come from Imam Hassan Askari (a.s.) and you have heard a lot: “جُعِلَتِ الخَبائِثُ في بَيتٍ و جُعِلَ مِفتاحُهُ الكِذبَ” (All evil was placed in a house whose key is lying.)

There are many verses in the Quran that forbid lying and slander, and God has cursed the liars.

For example, in the third verse of Surah Az-Zumar, we read: “إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ” (Indeed Allah does not guide someone who is a liar and an ingrate). That is, the liar is deprived of divine guidance.

In verse 36 of Surah Al-Isra, God forbids us from following false news and says: “وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا” (Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed hearing, eyesight, and the heart—all of these are accountable.) This verse is clearly related to the subject of our discussion in this session.

As God threatens “Morjafoon”. “Morjafoon” or gossipers are those who spread rumors and false news to weaken the spirit of Muslims in society In verse 60 of Surah Al-Ahzab, God threatens them as follows: “لَئِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ وَالْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَا إِلَّا قَلِيلًا” (If the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness, and the rumourmongers in the city do not desist, We will prompt you [to take action] against them; then they will not be your neighbors in it except briefly.)

Hence, we understand from the Quranic verses and hadiths that lies are not accompanied by faith at all. As we read in this noble and important hadith (pay more attention!): “سئل رسول الله (صلی الله علیه وآله) هل یکون المؤمن جباناً؟ قال: نعم. قیل: ویکون بخیلاً؟ قال: نعم. قیل یکون کذاباً؟ قال: لا” (The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was asked, if a believer can be coward? He answered: Yes. They asked: Is he stingy? He answered: Yes. They asked: Is he a liar? He answered: No.)

The same theme has been narrated in another form from Imam Ali (a.s.) who says: “لا یجد العبد طعم الإیمان حتی یترک الکذب، هزله وجدّه” (The servant (of God) does not taste faith unless he abandons lies, whether humorous or serious.) That is, there is no difference between lying humorously or purposely, and lying, in any case, is not accompanied by faith.

It is clear that when lies are spread in a society, the sins in that society increase, but multiply, and the extent of sin in the society is as great as the spread of lies.

After giving these four introductions, we have four solutions for the topic of the seminar: “How to deal with fake news in cyberspace”:

Solution 1:

The first way to deal with fake news is to acquire the power to differentiate fake news from authentic news. There are rules and methods for detecting fake news, and thus avoiding being affected by it. The first and most important method is “media literacy” or “media education”.

Here, I call on the Office of Islamic Studies in Cyberspace, as a scientific center, to hold a special seminar with experts on this very important issue in today’s world, namely media literacy or media education.

In the definition of media literacy or media education, it should be said that its simple definition is the skill of interacting with the media. That is, knowledge of communication tools, reading knowledge, awareness and analyzing skills of data in the media, comprehensively. It means that someone who has been trained in media knows, for example, which newspaper, trend, axis or group each newspaper, channel or news agency belongs to.

For example, a person with media literacy should know what Fox News belongs to, what country the BBC belongs to, what axis the Al-Alam News Network belongs to. In addition, this training enables the learner to think and critique so as not to be passive in the face of fake news. This means that the learner, after learning media literacy or media training, will not be passive in the face of fake news.

Accordingly, a person with media literacy can analyze and evaluate news from a variety of media, from the press to the Internet and cyberspace.

One of the lessons of media literacy in the field of evaluating news and distinguishing fake news from authentic is paying attention to the source of the news outlets.

For example, we hear about an incident in Iraq. We should consider that what is the source of the news. Or when an Israeli newspaper publishes news about the martyr Haj Qassem Soleimani or one of the commanders and leaders of the Resistance, we should not confirm it at first. Rather, in order to clarify the truth, we must follow that news in other news media outlets that oppose that newspaper.

If, for example, we read news in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in order to clarify the truth, we should look for the same news or incident in the Iraqi newspapers, which, for example, belong to the Axis of Resistance, or a TV channel in the Islamic Republic and Iran.

Sponsors or news sponsoring organizations are another important issue that is assessed in terms of media literacy. We should ask ourselves who supports a certain source, a certain channel, or a certain newspaper. When a news agency or satellite channel operates with the support of the US Department of Defense, it is not expected to publish anything but fake news about the Islamic world or the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Media literacy plays an important role in distinguishing humorous and satirical news outlets from serious ones. As you know, there are many satirical and humorous websites, newspapers, and magazines. It often happens that a news or topic with a humorous or satirical intention is published on a satirical website or magazine, and then quoted by a serious newspaper or website, and as a result, the reader mistakenly thinks that the news is serious and real. In this way, this news is published consecutively, and fake news is formed.

Therefore, knowing the media outlets and their sponsors leads to understanding their mission and purpose of publishing news.

The issue of media literacy or media education is a very fundamental and important issue.

Solution 2:

The second way to deal with fake news is to study the whole body of the news in addition to its headline. To understand the content, in addition to the news headline, read the full body of the text. Many of us read the headline and do not read the text of the news and this leads to fake news.

Solution 3:

The third solution is to check the identity of the news writers. We need to know if they are real or unreal. In many analyzes and news stories, the author’s name is mentioned. For example, a strategic analyst or someone who writes a certain news article. But this people may not have an external and real existence. If we search for an author or analyst of a news story but find nothing about him or her, we can find that this analysis or news story is as false, fake, or deceptive as its author.

Solution 4:

The next issue is research into the date of a news story. From the date of the news, we know whether a certain incident is new or old. As you know, a lot of fake news is actually true, but it happened at a different time and place, for example, a few years ago and by other people. But sometimes by manipulating the date and place and people, the news is published, which leads to the creation of a fake news.

Solution 5:

The fifth solution is to refer to experts in the field related to a certain news story. This is also a Quranic command.

In His heavenly book, Quran, God commands: “فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ” (ask of those who possess the Message) (Holy Quran, Surah: An-Nahl, Verse: 43) That is, the people of Knowledge.

For example, in the Covid-19 pandemic in the world, many people unfortunately lost their lives. In this situation, news of a new treatment for Covid-19 is published. When we read about a new treatment for Covid-19, we should not immediately use that new treatment. Instead, we should ask doctors and medical researchers if this news is true. Is there such a treatment or is this fake news?

The purpose of the fake news can be anything, including misleading, financial, harmful for people and viewers of the news outlet in which fake news has been published. Therefore, one should refer to experts related to the subject of the news, whether it is political, medical, scientific, or cultural.

Solution 6:

The sixth solution is to search the Internet, which is very simple and accessible.

In many cases, a simple search, such as through Google, prevents us from being deceived by fake news in cyberspace. Why does this short search prevent us from being deceived? Because other people have read this news before us and searched it, and some of them have published the results they have found about how authentic it is. As I said about the new treatment for Covid in the fifth solution, for example, a pill or medicine to treat the virus enters the market. We can Google the name of the drug and search if it is useful as a treatment. This simple search can tell us if this news is fake or true.

Solution 7:

The last and seventh solution in dealing with fake news is to evaluate the news.

In verse 6 of Surah Al-Hujurat God says: “يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَنْ تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ” (O you who believe! if an evil-doer comes to you with a report, look carefully into it, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you have done.) In this verse, a Quranic concept is clearly stated.

As you know, after following a fake news, we feel regret. In this verse, God Almighty asks the believers to study and research. Why? Lest they repent of their deeds.

At the advent of Islam, as you know, the Prophet (p.b.u.h) used to send people as missionaries to tribes and cities to invite people to Islam, receive their zakat, and arrange other matters.

Accordingly, Jabir ibn Abdullah al-Ansari narrates that the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) sent Walid ibn Uqba to the tribe of Bani Wali’ya. From the Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) era, there was enmity and hostility between Walid and that tribe.

When Walid reached the tribe of Bani Wali’ya, they came to greet him to know the reason and purpose of his visit. Here Walid was frightened by the crowd and set out to return.

When he returned to the Prophet (p.b.u.h), he said, “O Prophet of God! The Bani Wali’ya wanted to kill me and refused to pay alms (zakat)!

It was a fake news!

When the Bani Wali’ya learned what Walid ibn Uqba had said to the Prophet about them, they came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and said, “O Prophet of God! Walid has lied. But there was enmity between him and him in Jahiliyyah, and we feared that he would punish us for that enmity.”

The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, “O Bani Wali’ya, put an end to the opposition, otherwise I will send a man to you who is like me to me.”

Then the Prophet tapped Imam Ali (a.s.) on the shoulder.

It was at this time that God revealed the sixth verse of Surah Al-Hujurat about Walid, which was mentioned at the beginning of this section.

It is understood from this verse that animosity and hostility between the reporters and the subject of the news, that is, between the source of the news and the subject of the news, leads to the falsification of the news.

At this time, we know that many or more news sources are corrupt. As Walid was a corrupt. Even now, most or many news sources are corrupt and there is enmity and hostility between them and others. There is now enmity between the Islamic axis (or the axis of Islamic resistance) and the western axis (or the Hebrew axis). Therefore, we must evaluate the news before it is confirmed.


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