Have You Heard?

Rabih Elkhodr

The year of 2017 was packed with major events both locally and around the world. Trump was inaugurated as president, a perfume that causes immediate death after spraying it killed 3 people, and a lion that was loose in the Lebanese village of Kfarmelki caused terror to its citizens. Fortunately enough, not all of these stories are true.

We can rule out one obvious truth that made global news, Trump actually is the President of the United States. The rest are what we call hoaxes, falsehoods and fake news deliberately fabricated for people to believe.

“I had friends and family members from Sreefa and other neighboring villages of Kfarmelki that didn’t dare go out that night,” said Firas Kenaan, a citizen of Sreefa. On March 6, 2017 a message on WhatsApp warning villagers of a lion on the loose went viral. An image of a lion that was believed to be seen on the road was attached with the message. It gained so much public attention that the municipalities of surrounding villages issued an official warning for people not to leave their homes. As it turned out, the picture of the lion was found on Google, and the message sent on WhatsApp was completely made up since there were no traces of a lion in the area.  This is what hoaxes are intended to do: deceive people to pass on the news to others, often causing chaos and fear.

Another very notorious hoax that probably found its way to most of our phones is the killer-perfume called Relax. “Spray and you’ll die within 3 days,” said the unnamed woman in the voice note circulated via WhatsApp, warning people not to use it. She claimed that three women have been found dead after using this perfume. This news spread like wild fire, making its way from Egypt to Lebanon and was even discussed on several news outlets.

According to an article on hoax-slayer.com, “The claims in the would-be warning are nonsense. No such perfume related deaths have occurred. There are no credible news or health authority reports that support the claims in the warning message in any way whatsoever.” So how did this news gain so much attention?

It is a fact that people are intrigued by bizarre news, as it evidently arouses their interest and curiosity. This could be why hoaxes are so easily spread. In the current digital age, anyone with access to a phone and internet can create news and spread it within seconds. However, one does not need to fall victim for the fake news. Filtering news, double-checking the facts to find evidence, and making sure the sources are credible are crucial to prevent mass chaos and hysteria. One might even go as far as claiming that even “if your mother says she loves you, it’s best to double-check that out.”

- Batoul Hobballah
  Communication and Social Media Student