Diana Uribe: Fighting the Viral Spread of Fake News
(5 pages of text)
On August 31, 2016, a well-respected and highly influential cultural broadcaster and entrepreneur in Colombia was the subject of a fake news attack. A message started spreading over the WhatsApp messaging service wrongfully attributing to her a vociferous statement opposing the Colombian peace-making process. On September 2, 2016, she produced a disconfirming video, in which she made it clear that the statement was not written by her; that it did not represent her views; and that, contrary to what the statement said, she supported peace efforts. The video was posted on her official Facebook and Twitter accounts, and echoed by mainstream media. Unfortunately, the attack did not stop there. On several occasions between 2016 and 2017, the message was put in circulation again. The timing seemed connected to milestones in Colombia’s peace process. In February 2018, three months before the presidential elections in the country, the message started to circulate again. The entrepreneur wondered if there was anything else she could do to prevent further damage to both public opinion and her own reputation.
This case can be used in undergraduate or graduate-level courses on crisis management, reputation management, or communications. Given its focus on a cultural entrepreneur, it speaks closely to reputational challenges faced by small businesses and suggests responses that are appropriate for small businesses. The case can also be used in courses that cover the topics of new media and new technologies in business and society to discuss how old problems such as fake news call for fresh thinking and new solutions in the digital age. The use of this case can supplement emerging efforts made by universities to improve students’ news literacy, aiming to create societies less vulnerable to information manipulation. It can do so by showing not only that readers need to get better at informing themselves, but also that organizations need to improve their ability to act against seemingly pervasive misinformation threats. Furthermore, although the case does not deal directly with issues of gender, it does tell the story of a woman in a position of leadership. After the completion of this case, students will be able to
- assess the types of damage that false information can cause and gauge the extent of the damage;
- recognize how differences in technological features can affect the assessment of damage caused by fake news;
- discuss the core elements to be included in an action plan crafted by a small business to react against a fake news attack; and
- consider challenges specific to international contexts, such as language, in this case.
Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Recreation
Colombia, Small, 2018
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