Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information has issued tough warnings to media organizations that relish spreading rumors to get heavy traffic on their websites that follows suite. In fact, the ministry has warned the organizations of tough legal action against those that spread fake news.
Zawya reports that the warning is a response to the recent incident in which a number of local print newspapers published fake news about Prince Abdullah bin Musaed bin Abdul Aziz citing that he has been sacked as president of the General Authority of Sports. A number of prestigious media outlets published this inaccurate news on their websites and on social media accounts and later they apologized for the mistake.
— وزارة الإعلام (@media_ksa) December 1, 2016
The matter was taken rather seriously by the government primarily due to the fear of setting a wrong precedent.
“Can you imagine the consequences if this was a rumor about a security operation or a terrorist act?” stated attorney Majed Garoub.
According to Garoub, any media error that is committed via electronic means will be considered a cyber crime and will pose grave consequences. Every crime will be classified under a specific category of cybercrime and will be punishable as per law.
However, Garoub explained that the ministry’s sanctions against organizations are not applicable to individuals as it is; there are certain variations such as individuals can expect a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail or up to SR 5 million ($1.3 million) as fine.
Garoub further added that the incident has provided the government an opportunity to send a stricter message to all media outlets seeking to make money through spreading fake news. The ministry aims to make the institutions realize that:
“The same accuracy applied to print newspapers must be applied to their official websites and accounts on social networking sites.”
Garoub also stated that if anyone resends or retweets a rumor will be deemed as guilty as the source that posted it originally and hence will be held accountable. Renowned media personality and writer Maysoon Abu Baker regards the rumor about Prince Abdullah bin Musaed as very unfortunate and has launched a campaign on Twitter as well with the hashtag #No_To_Rumors.
Fake news and the Internet
Fake news, rumors and hoax are not new to the Internet however before and during US elections 2016 fake news websites played a vital role in changing demographics of votings in the country.
A recent case study about Fake news show they have done more damage to society however in some areas people spread the fake news to make money while some to confuse others. It’s about time publisher for fake sites should be tackled accordingly.