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Be alert to the menace of fake news

By: stagedoorscribbler - June 17, 2019

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photograph by Hattie Miles

Be careful out there. We are deep into the age of fake news. An article circulated on the internet last week claimed that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had died after being knocked down by a car in Toronto.

It was totally untrue of course. Not only was the 85-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate safe and well but he was at home in Cape Town more than 8,000 miles from the Canadian city.

But he wasn’t the only supposed victim highlighted by the hoax.  A fake news mini industry seems to have emerged peddling the same story about different prominent people who are all supposed to have been mown down by a Honda Civic in Toronto and then died of their injuries later in hospital. None of it is true.

The imaginary victims included the English rugby union coach Ben Ryan who promptly dismissed the report of his death on Twitter saying 

“Second time I’ve died via a fake news story. At least it isn’t the drug trafficking arrest the last one talked about. I’m nowhere Toronto though hear it’s a great spot, as long as you aren’t around the out of control Honda Civics.” 

Others supposedly killed included the cricket commentator Adam Gilchrist, the Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya, retired Filipino basketball player Kenneth Duremdes,  the Jamaican footballer Luton Shelton and the Zambian minister of traditional affairs Lawrence Sichalwe. All needless to say are alive and well. 

What the purpose of spreading such stories can possibly be is difficult to fathom. If it’s just a joke, it’s a rather pathetic one. Perhaps there’s more sinister intent though. It could be part of an anarchic plot to spread disinformation confusion and gradually make it more and more difficult to separate truth from lies - a powerful political weapon. On the other hand maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe the site that exposed the hoaxes is a hoax itself. 

As I said be be careful out there. You can’t believe everything you read. We all need to take information in more slowly, think things through and check things out and, crucially, react with caution and care.