23/01/2017 11:52 SAST | Updated 20/02/2017 12:25 SAST

Fake News -- It's Not As Straight-Up As It Seems

Media Monitoring Africa cautions against the dangers of fake news with a political agenda.

Media Monitoring Africa is warning about the rise of fake news following a weekend where at least three media houses had their names used in the peddling of incorrect stories.

The Huffington Post South Africa, Sunday Times and Talk Radio 702 were targeted by the fake news compilers over the weekend with inaccurate reports. Head of policy at Media Monitoring Africa Thandi Smith told Radio 702 that the fake news sites posed a serious danger as some consumers would take the reports as the truth.

She called on consumers of news to be careful with the sites. There was a story on one of the fake Twitter accounts claiming to be Huffpost SA talking about Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The account portrayed the narrative of the minister being a stooge, going out of his way to clip wings of Guptas and Oakbay.

"There is responsibility to the audience to try and be more vigilant about fake news. But there is also a responsibility on media themselves to try and assist their audiences, alerting their customers on the potential of that danger," she said.

The aforementioned media houses were not the only ones affected. Smith said the Media Monitoring Africa was monitoring at least 10 fake news sites and their Twitter accounts that might have a political agenda.

"It's shifting the political narrative of the South African political landscape. But with the fake news sites there could very well be a commercial interest because you see fake news about celebrities or politicians," said Smith.

The rise of fake news and Twitter accounts pushing for a certain narrative have been tracked in South Africa for some time, and The Daily Maverick reported that a researcher found over 100 such Twitter accounts.

The publication said following the State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela, the fake Twitter accounts were pushing the narrative that the report was "useless and rubbish", "Madonsela and the media were captured and biased", and that the enemies of the people were "white monopoly capital".

A researcher is said to have kept an eye on the Twitter accounts in a bid to make sense of who would benefit from such actions. The publication said from the collected information, it pointed to the Gupta family.