Don't believe everything you see and read on social media

Don't believe everything you see and read on social media
PHOTO: ST

It's never too late to warn social media users to question the content of material they see online - and whether it is true. Meanwhile, there is actually no sign of professional media outlets dying any time in the near future.

Professional media personnel, especially journalists and editors, are necessary as they have the ability and know-how to verify and analyse information; otherwise they would have lost the "battle" to social media ages ago.

On the other hand, however, some journalists can still make mistakes.

Take, for instance, the recent rumour spread online that the European Union had decided to boycott Thailand's military-backed government. This rumour was injected with a dose of credibility when a newspaper picked up on it and decided to present it as news.

The YouTube link on the so-called report was re-posted and shared repeatedly. Few people noticed that the video clip had been doctored and the logo of the TV station and the date of the report removed. Those who noticed this anomaly only turned to their friends to verify.

The Foreign Ministry and a representative of the EU came out to clarify things after a columnist from a large Thai-language newspaper wrote about this supposed boycott as if it had actually happened.

The EU office in Thailand put a post on Facebook saying: "In regards to reports that the EU has imposed sanctions on Thailand. This is not correct. The delegation understands the reports are referring to the conclusions [http://bit.ly/1HZ9h4f] of the Council of the European Union, which were adopted on June 23, 2014. No new conclusions on Thailand have been adopted since then."

(Note: Since the original link of the English version of the post referred to in the statement is broken, it has been replaced with a link to the Thai version.)

Immediately after this post, the column in question was removed from the newspaper's website, while the columnist's conduct has been a hot topic among other journalists, who waited to see how he would take responsibility for falling for incorrect information.

Yet the columnist, who goes by the pseudonym "Mudlek", insisted that he was right and decided to right a new piece instead, in which he claimed the EU and the United States were putting pressure on the military-backed government in many ways, regardless of what they have said officially.

The EU sanctions rumour is not the only item of misinformation that has done the rounds on social media recently. Other content is also being shared repeatedly, confusing people either on purpose or by accident, and a lot of this is related to Thai politics.

The most recent instance was the case of Rinda "Lin" Paruechabut, a business-woman who was recently arrested for spreading a claim online that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had transferred more than Bt10 billion to Singapore. She has confessed to posting this statement online and is now out on bail after posting a Bt100,000 guarantee. Rinda faces charges of violating Articles 14 and 116 of the Computer Act, as well as causing turmoil, public disobedience and panic.

Her lawyer, Pawinee Chumsri, said that though Rinda's offence allegedly affected national security, she was really only voicing her "opinion". Rinda, however, insists that she did not create the content - she had picked it up on LINE.

Another recent item on social media that caught everybody's attention this week was the Nasa chief Charles Bolden's live question-and-answer session about the New Horizon spacecraft's flight past Pluto.

Sadly, the session was bombarded with nasty, irrelevant chatter from Thai social-media users, in Thai language, and the subject once again was politics. Obviously, they didn't care that people across the world who were genuinely interested in the flyby were being disturbed.

Kittitouch Chaiprasith wrote on Facebook questioning the purpose of such troll-like behaviour and even traced the origin of these comments. He said that if the authorities wanted, they could find who these "trolls" were.

Now, if an ordinary social media user can trace posts back to the original creators, surely media professionals should also remember to do the same before picking up on what they consider news. After all, there's nothing wrong with being mindful while using social media.

On the bright side though, many people have been using social media constructively by sharing tips and tricks on saving water as Thailand struggles with a severe drought, such as using leftover dish-washing water to clean the floor and water the plants.

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