Our man on Facebook: The unwitting trusted source
This week, Al-Akhbar journalist Qassem Qassem played a trick on his colleagues in the media – one that exposed just how unreliable sourcing in the digital news-gathering age can be. Doha Shams blogged about what happened on our Arabic page:
From Beirut, Qassem was following the events in Gaza closely via television, Internet, and, of course, his own sources in the beleaguered Strip, and posting updates on his Facebook page. Soon, however, he noticed that the TV channel he was watching appeared to be re-publishing his Facebook updates on the scrolling news ticker at the bottom of the screen.
At the urging of his colleague at the paper, Hassan Illeik, Qassem decided to test his hunch. And so, he wrote on his Facebook profile that rockets had fallen near the home of Israeli IDF chief Benny Gantz – citing “Israeli TV Channel 7.” Sure enough, within minutes, the news – apparently lifted verbatim from Qassem’s Facebook wall – scrolled across his TV screen.
Needless to say, neither the news of a strike near Gantz’s house, nor the Israeli television channel he cited were real.
Not only was the news picked up by other major outlets, but Qassem’s contacts in Gaza even began to repeat the claim. It might have even made it’s way back onto our live blog had Doha Shams not written this post – a warning to all of us in the business of gathering and rapidly disseminating information to check the original sources of claims.