A view from Mexico | Combating fake news and the ‘infodemic’

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 09:58 GMT

REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

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In Mexico, the government is an obstacle to the fight against fake news and the infodemic. The authorities have shown resistance to some conclusions of the WHO. To date, the president has not used a mask, and at the beginning of the pandemic, the authorities discouraged anyone who was not a doctor from using one, raising doubts on a supply problem.

Although the Mexican press has exercised criticism of this and other actions, it has lost the opportunity to go further, investigate, and challenge the response of the authorities on these issues.

Journalists, in general, realise their role. But the agenda is imposed by the media which they work for. Media outlets are more interested in their reporters covering the government’s daily conferences than verifying the words of the authorities.

In most of the cases, it is not an officialism issue, but a clickbait one, which deteriorates the quality of the work of the press to combat the infodemic.  Thus, the best efforts of verification or investigation arrive by international outlets or independent initiatives. Far from government speeches, fake news also propagates, and gains strength in networks such as WhatsApp, where the person who shares the information is not a stranger, but your close circle: family and friends.

Although the media have denied some fake news, some with a dedicated team for it such as AFP, the Mexican press, in general, has not been so effective in reaching the same populations that create this false information. This is because the press does not use the same channels, in this case WhatsApp, as the Mexican population. An analysis of misinformation in Mexico found that 16% of fake news came through WhatsApp, in contrast to 13% on Facebook and 12% on Twitter.

- Juan Luis García Hernández, Digital News Reporter Mexico, Thomson Reuters Foundation Alumnus 

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