In the year of 2016, misinformation and fraudulent articles were prevalent on the internet, being shared prematurely and carelessly by those on social media. The fake news that frequently started to spread last year seems to had been posted specifically to sway the public’s perception of either one of the two Presidential candidates.
However, there is a new form of “fake news” that is being frequently shared on social media, and while it isn’t a malicious in nature as the fake news of the presidential campaign, it is still extremely dangerous. This type of fake news is known to many as “fake woke news”, or simply “selective fake outrage”.
The latest brand to be a victim of “fake news”, causing an outrage among black consumers, leading to a full-blown controversy in just a manner of days, was Dove. The post that caused all of the controversy and temporary chaos among shocked consumers was a screenshot an advertisement for Dove Body Wash on Facebook.
The screenshot showed still images which implied that advertisement showed a black woman, who was meant to symbolize being dirty, taking off her shirt before turning into a white woman, who was meant to symbolize cleanliness. It wasn’t long before many people shared the image and expressed their outrage over the advertisement, resulting in Dove releasing an apology.
The only problem: it turns out the advertisement was taken out of context. There were more women in the ad of different ethnicities than what was implied by the screenshots. As a matter of fact, after viewing the full ad in its entirety, it seems as if Dove was showing a message of unity among women regardless of ethnicity. Taking all of this into consideration, to say this was a massive false alarm is a bit of an understatement.
This is not the only type of fake news to be targeted towards and shared almost exclusively among black social media users at first. There have been false prophet gurus who “rejects western medicine standards”. There’s false info claiming that taxes shouldn’t be paid and that the government owes you millions.
People are still spreading the lie that claiming sovereignty means that laws do not apply to you. And last, but not least, videos with a caption that fits a certain narrative, only to find out the real source and story behind the video later. All of it is immediately and enthusiastically shared by Black Twitter and Facebook.
Do the people who often share the information on social media in belief/agreeance purposely spread false information, not caring if it’s real or not, just as long as it fits their narrative of choice? Of course not! Well, not entirely.
Instances of fake news spreading on social media are just a prime example of the good part of social media colliding hard with the bad side of social media. The good part of social media includes the fact that people are able to share information at such a large rate, making it easier for people to organize. It’s the part of social media that allows for people call out injustice and come together.
The bad part of social media includes the need to be popular, or the first to jump onto or discover something. It’s the part of social media where people want to express their opinion, be right and share “evidence” that they are right. It’s the part where people will say and do anything to go viral. When this collision happens, it produces an environment where nearly everyone is willing to post and share something controversial without even thinking of fact checking.
The blame can’t be put solely on the people who share the messages. The would-be gurus, click-bait bloggers, and those just trying go viral so they can parlay into a vlogging career, are the main ones to blame. However, people who share and comment on these instances are to be held accountable as well.
The worst part about fake news on black social media is that it undercuts the hard work of bloggers, journalists and public figures who actually work to bring awareness to the black community. It also takes attention from other issues which we as black people should be focused on.
In the fight against injustice, the two main battles are rhetoric and perception. When black people prematurely react to false alarms and easily debunked conspiracies, it ends with the African American community being in a “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation. As hard as it is already to gain awareness on issues, it only becomes harder whenever the public perception is once again shifted to “racism has been called for nothing, again.”
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t “stay woke” and continue to call out injustices in the world, as well as companies, celebrities and politicians who release ads and say things that go past racial insensitivity and inch towards being racist rhetoric. However, we must remember not to be the boy who cried wolf, and make sure the information that we are spreading is accurate and worthy of our attention. If we aren’t doing that, it can be argued that we’re actually hindering progress.