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Islam’s Protocol Of Gathering Information To Avoid Spreading Fake News

By Hashim Msusa

The growing trend of sharing and gathering information through social media impact individuals and societies when fake news is spread. As individuals, we may have experienced the impact of fake news. Does Islam treat the gathering of news and information  a serious matter?

Contemporary discourse, particularly media coverage, define fake news as referring to viral posts based on fictitious accounts made to look like news reports. However, according to Allcott and Gentzkow define it as news that is intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers.

Generally, fake news is a recipe for misinformation which is not new in the media and today the major outlet is the social media becoming the main sources of news for a growing number of individuals where misinformation has found a new channel.

However, in the present day, misinformation has a far greater range to influence and manipulate with the ease of sharing information in social media. In this regard, there must be noble procedures of gathering and acquiring news and information, that would curtail growth of fake news as it impacts societies and organisations.

Islam treat the means and ways of accessing news and information seriously. Acquiring news and information shouldn’t be done haphazardly. There are phases to follow when we acquire  information and news taught by Islam.

The first phase orientates an individual to verify credibility of the sources of the news and information gathered or received. On the other hand growth of media sources is a challenge in finding credibility. Hence the Noble Qur’an ballout the one getting the news and cannot verify in order to authenticate it’s sources as follows, “Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Surely the hearing, the sight, the heart, – each of these shall be called to account.” (17:30)

The second phase takes on the one gathering or receiving information to the path of evaluating and seek clarification. Upon accessing a piece of information, an individual should investigate it before acting upon it. No instant clicking and forwarding of the news and information that comes on our way.

The second phase which is evaluating and seeking clarification is given in the Noble Qur’an where God  Almighty says, “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become over what you have done regretful.” (49:6)

The above Qur’anic verse will lead us in our social media forums to always investigate what someone has posted. Indeed, undermining the aspect of investigating may harm innocent people and leaves us regretting our conduct.

While the first phase in acquiring information is to verify its credibility and the second evaluating it’s content the third phase is to ensure  that sharing of news must be done while keeping in mind the spiritual ethics.

It is an Islamic belief that human intellect, wisdom, understanding, and reason are a trust of God Almighty and that these should not be used to harm another human soul.Therefore sharing information should not aim at harming innocent  people.

The above suggest that individuals with healthy spiritual minds before spreading any piece of information have a responsibility to consider the impact it can have on an individual. The Prophet of Islam –  Muhammad  (Peace be upon Him) said, “A believer is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe.”

We may conclude by suggesting that we should be cautious when clicking on the share button or forwarding a message that can be insulting, hurtful or offensive.