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September 13, 2018

Charlatans propagate fake news about dams fund on social media


September 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The social media has been awash with fake news, this time about the noble cause of fund collection for construction of dams.

However, the dissemination of such concocted news through this electronic fast track has accentuated the relevance and weight of the information circulated by the mainstream print and electronic media, where there are checks to block suspicious and spurious content.

There is no such control on the social media and anybody is free to post whatever falsity fascinates them. Phony accounts are instantly created to dilate on the given topic to mislead the general public.

“Instead of giving any credence to what is circulating on the social media about donations, those interested in knowing the contributions are advised to access the State Bank of Pakistan website, where every detail is available,” Iftikhar Durrani, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media, told The News when asked about government plans to curb the fake news. He said the government would not waste time on contradicting anything irresponsible appearing in cyberspace and the alternative media. “Announcements made on the Twitter accounts of Imran Khan and PTI official are authentic. Where the government feels it has been damaged, like for example, the London paper’s story misquoting Razak Dawood, we immediately rebut it.”

The chicanery about donations for the construction of dams also attempted to mock the worthy endeavour, which is a serious matter for Pakistan. Efforts have been made by imaginative minds to soil this honourable project. The campaign of bogus news was unleashed quickly after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a public appeal, in a televised address, to Pakistani expatriates to generously donate at least $1,000 - or more or less, according to their means - to the dam fund.

Shahram Khan Tarakai, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Local Government, was among those deceived by the false information. He soon realised his mistake and issued an apology for posting a tweet showing a newspaper clipping, which cited unverified information of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah appealing to overseas Pakistanis to donate to the "partitionfFund".

“In his radio address to the nation, Governor-General Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah has appealed to overseas Pakistanis to deposit money in the partition fund,” the clipping read.

After facing a public backlash, Tarakai subsequently deleted the post from his Twitter timeline and apologised. Apparently, it had not occurred to him that there were hardly any Pakistani expatriates at the time and a person like the Quaid-i-Azam was unlikely to issue such an appeal.

Another imposter posted a tweet from Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s false account, saying: “I am (sic) proudly announce to donate 10 million dollar in PM/CJP Dam Fund, I am selling my all properties in Dubai and UK, My country, my pride”.

The dubious creativity extended to some world-famous personalities as well. A charlatan pretending to be Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a pledge to contribute $5 million to Pakistan’s dam fund. The fake Twitter account cropped up two days after the prime minister called on overseas Pakistanis to make donations.

“Pakistan's new government is serious in making dams and I'm sure Imran Khan will make dams in his government. As humanity, #Facebook will also participate in the Dam Fund. #Facebook will give 5 million$ (sic) in the #PMDamFund,” read the bogus tweet.

A second such tweet falsely attributed to Zuckerberg announced: “I will come to Pakistan very soon. We want to invest in Pakistan because there is an honest government in Pakistan.”

A fake Facebook page named PTI Washington DC claimed that Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan had announced a donation of $10 million for the dams fund. Senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) politician Senator Faisal Javed Khan said that the Facebook page was fake and warned that such ill-intended posts by fraudulent people were damaging a very noble cause. He urged the masses to oppose it for the sake of Pakistan.

This is hardly the first time fake online accounts have been created by imposters to propagate misinformation and mislead the public. Recently, fake accounts of French President Macron Emmanuel and former Indian cricket star Navjot Singh Sidhu, who visited Pakistan to attend Imran Khan's inauguration, also went viral on Twitter.

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