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The reputational damage of fake news

News   •   May 31, 2017 17:08 BST

Fake news may not be a new concept, but it is becoming a big issue at the moment with people being warned to treat with caution what they read on the internet. Many outlets are deliberately pushing out fake stories in order discredit another individual or organization, or to gain attention and attract more advertising revenue.

There are of course news sites that we know we can trust. We can rely on them to give us the facts, even if those facts are balanced one way or the other.

Al-Jazeera - the Qatari state-run news outlet - is arguably one such site, possessing a global audience that has come to rely on this source for their regular intake of news. But how well can we trust what is published by some of these supposedly trusted outlets?

Last week Al-Jazeera was hacked and a fake news story published on their website. The story quoted the ruling emir making controversial comments which exacerbated already existing tensions in the region, and prompted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to block Al-Jazeera, and other Qatari media outlets, from broadcasting in those countries. In addition to the website, Al-Jazeera's twitter account was also hacked with controversial comments posted on it.

There are perhaps two main issues that come out of this story that we need to be concerned about. Firstly, it is a reminder that we as consumers of news need to be more careful about what we read on the internet, or anywhere for that matter.

Secondly, it demonstrates just how careful individuals and organizations need to be with their online accounts. The cyber security report published by the Business Continuity Institute during Business Continuity Awareness Week highlighted a study in which British politicians had their accounts hacked (albeit in a controlled environment), noting that, if this were to happen during election time, and false information was posted, it could change the course of the outcome.

We need to be careful about the reputational damage that can result from our accounts being hacked and false information posted, and we need to make sure they are as secure as is reasonably possible to prevent hackers gaining access.

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