In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about fake news. Estonia has so far not had any serious experiences with fake news in our own language, so we can only read about them through the experiences of other countries. The summer months have seen the topic of fake news arise through the experience of our southern neighbours of Latvia and Lithuania.
Lithuania – „ A child died under the wheels of a NATO vehicle“
In Lithuania at the beginning of June, the news had a story about how a child died at the time of the military exercise „Saber Strike 2018“. The story appeared in the wordpress.com site anonymously from a blog account. The posting was equipped with a fake screen shot, as if Lithuanian Delfi had published such a story with a photo. The photo itself was of very poor quality and hard to make out, unless you have a magnifying glass and then you could see that in fact the bicycle in the picture has been pasted on to the photo.
The news did not have a large coverage of the story, a few individual sites „picked“ it up but later erased it or corrected it with apologies. At the same time the story continues to exist on a number of gathering sites, and there is no indication that it is fake news.
Latvia – „ The collapse of a shopping mall caused hundreds of victims“
By contrast, Latvia has been dealing with more serious fake news attacks as of mid July, of which the biggest was the fake news story of the collapse of a shopping mall where hundreds of people died. The source of the news was the Latvian- language site redzams.lv, which is distributing fake news on a massive scale.
Fake news from this news site has already caused problems in society and the Latvian state has had to deal with stopping the spreading of such news. In addition, the portal has for example published news how every student will be receiving a grant of 300 euros per month as of the new academic year and how soon every Latvian citizen will be called up for conscription service. Another example is the reported death of several public figures etc.
The portal whose owners are unknown has published massive amounts of Latvian language fake news and tries to spread them through social media as well. It has to be said that the environment has caused even more confusion in society through these stories.
If the incident in Lithuania is aimed at undermining the credibility of NATO and is similar to a Lithuanian language provocation, that took place some time ago where the USA Ministry of Defence home page had pictures taken and photo shopped, the fake news in Latvia was aimed at a wider destabilization of society and consequently had greater implications.
Estonia has not yet encountered any similar problems with fake news which why it is worth asking if we are ready for such an incident. Estonian publications are quite up to date and can generally distinguish the truth from lies and in case of mistakes can very quickly repair the damage.
At the same time, our social media is relatively uncontrollable like in the rest of the world and can spread and distribute all types of abusive material in great numbers. The Estonian language and the small amount of people who understand it has protected us so far from greater distribution of fake news but in a situation where the original source material is already in the mother tongue and the topic is emotionally influential for the masses, we must be ready for fake news that will affect our society on a whole.
In the case of Estonia, the question is not whether this type of fake news can appear but rather when will it occur. We ask you all to be attentive and let Propastop editorial staff know of any such cases.
Photo: screenshot from a newspaper