Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Facebook hoax sends Botswana panicking

A worried Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/ AIDS (BONELA) Executive Director, Uyapo Ndadi, warned alleged beach party rape victims to rush to the doctor.

Outraged Facebook users vented their spleen on organizers of the beach party while a handful of others directed their anger at Botswana Police Service as Botswana came face to face this week with the dark side of social media as a fear-mongering tool capable of disturbing public peace.

In the aftermath of the much publicised beach party, rumours about 20 revellers being raped and two murdered swept through the country gaining traction on social media and skyrocketing to viral status.

Botswana Police Service spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Near Bagali was pressed into emergency service on Monday trying to put out the fire, concerned that the false reports could “disturb public peace” and “erode confidence in the police service.”

In an interview with The Telegraph, Bagali said, “there was neither a murder incident nor a rape case reported at the event and those people who posted such irresponsible reports on Facebook should stop it, because basically what they are saying is that the police service failed to provide security.”

Bagali said the Facebook reports were false, insisting that security at the event was tight and police were visible all over from 10 am when the event started right until it ended on Sunday morning. He told The Telegraph that the Botswana Police Service is investigating the incident to decide what action can be taken against those spreading alarm through the social media.
The Facebook hoax gained legs and acquired a frightening traction despite the fact that no eye witness filed a post to confirm the rumour.

Unfortunately, in the social networking and internet era, facts and rational logic do not inoculate businesses and government departments from rumors, hoaxes and smear attacks.

The evolution of the Internet and the ability to communicate messages instantaneously to one another regardless of location means that a rumours ability to go viral became as easy and effortless as ever.

The entire foundation of Facebook is to share information with other people, meaning baseless rumours have the perfect platform to travel faster and further than they ever have before.

Everyday new rumours find themselves circulating via social networking sites and Facebook’s “status” feature that allows Facebook users to post small messages which are immediately shared with their Facebook contacts means the site is perfectly designed to carry rumours as fast and efficiently as possible. On occasion, some reputable organisations, eager to help are sucked into the rumour mill.

In this instance, outgoing BONELA Executive Director, Uyapo Ndadi, posted that, “Apparently some people were raped at some beach party yesterday, if you know one who was, get them to see a doctor for PEP if they are HIV negative!”

A number of contacts immediately joined in expressing the whole gamut of emotions from outrage to disgust as the hoax flew around the social network rumour mill.

The police warned Facebook users against making false and alarming posts saying this could disturb public peace and erode confidence on the police.

The Director of Jamm Power, the company that organised the event Tumelo Lekolwane told The Telegraph that the event was a success adding no injuries or any irresponsible behaviour was reported during the event. He says over 8 000 people attended the event and everything went well.

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