Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Damascus hoax shows how easy it is to manipulate new media: Star columnist

The Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom writes:

The Gay Girl in Damascus fiasco should serve as a warning to those enamoured by social media. Anything can be faked. The fact that something is posted on YouTube doesn’t make it true.
This has particular relevance for those who rely on Internet sites like Facebook to find out what is going on in countries such as Syria or Iran, where the mainstream media are suppressed.
In the Gay Girl case, the hoaxer appears to be just a mischief maker. Others trying to manipulate news on the net may have more complex motives.
Gay Girl fooled almost everyone. The BBC bought the hoax as did British papers like the Guardian and Telegraph. Time magazine called Amina Arraf, the blog’s supposed, Syrian-American author, “an honest and reflective voice of the (Syrian) revolution.”
Last week, both CNN and the Associated Press reported that Araf had been abducted by Syrian security forces.
In Canada, the Postmedia News service interviewed someone in Montreal claiming to be Araf’s worried girlfriend.
So when it was revealed on Monday that the author of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog was neither gay, nor a girl, nor living in Damascus, a lot of people looked stupid.
In fact, blogger Tom McMaster is a 40-year-old, married, male, American graduate student residing in Scotland.

Click on the title to read the whole column.

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