Chain emails? There is relatively little fake content in it, but the content is very inflated, says expert | iROZHLAS

E-mail. For someone, an official means of communication. For another type of social network, through which it is possible to spread fantastic but unverified information. “There is relatively little false content in them. It is usually a mixture of information that may have a real basis, but is taken out of context or greatly exploded in meaning, ”describes Jaroslav Valůch , media literacy program manager at Transitions, for iROZHLAS.cz.




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Jaroslav Valuch Photo: Michaela Danelova | Source: iROZHLAS.cz

What is a “chain email”? And among which group of people does it spread most often?
Chain email is nothing but a social network for internet users who do not use other social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.


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E-mail for sending information is usually used mainly by the older generation, who, for example, have only recently learned to use the Internet, but who for some reason have no appetite or confidence in social networks. They feel like this is not the place for them.

Email is therefore the most basic and easy to use way to contact and share information, whether individually or in groups. Therefore, I would only consider chain emails as one of the channels used to spread information – fun, helpful, but also hateful or downright misinformed.

Why do people tend to believe strong messages like, for example, that Ukrainian refugees are stealing, destroying, causing large-scale problems?
Trying to find information that is somehow at odds with what we learn from the mainstream media, from mainstream journalists, only affects a certain part of society.

There are people here, regardless of age, who distrust democratic institutions, including journalists and the media. Thus, everything that reaches them through these traditional channels, they perceive with suspicion and seek alternative explanations for complex events.

It is the war in Ukraine that is one of those shocking and difficult events to grasp. And if, as a consumer, spectator, citizen, I do not trust traditional communication channels, the media, I seek an explanation for the situation. And I will find it in so-called alternative sources. That is, websites, social networks, groups or even chain emails.

shocking information

And what is the motivation for disseminating this information?
The main reason why various hateful, false or misleading information about refugees is now starting to spread is to find a new perspective on the situation that simply explains it. At the same time, it’s an attempt by many people to apologize for not necessarily wanting to show total solidarity with these refugees.


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None of us want to be seen as not helping people in need. So finding an alternate explanation that they are actually to blame for themselves, if they really don’t have Nazism in Ukraine, if they didn’t provoke Russia, is their excuse for not having to deal with the situation.

It is a feeling of relief, of personal or social disempowerment. And I certainly wouldn’t underestimate the motivation to share shocking information with others. This has always been the case on a personal and publicized level. And the creators of the disinformation chain emails abuse it too. They expect people not to check this precisely because they have the opportunity to convey information to their friends, acquaintances about something interesting, shocking.

Maybe that’s why people tend to “inflate” certain information? Even if this will multiply the number of incidents, increase their severity…
You have to realize that there is relatively little in the chain of e-mails and Facebook groups of explicitly false content, pure fake news. Moreover, they can be detected relatively easily by verification methods. Most of the content is a mix of information that may be based on an actual event, but is usually taken out of context. Or their meaning is greatly blown away.

HAVE YOU ARRIVED AT DISINFORMATION?

Dear readers, if you come across information on social networks, the veracity of which you are not sure of, send it to the e-mail address overovna@rozhlas.cz. The iROZHLAS.cz server will try to check it for you. False reports already refuted are available HERE.

It’s not new. Tabloids have always done it, as have individuals on social media and email. It’s still there – you take a snippet of a real event, bloat it to big chunks so that it’s shocking, interesting, and engaging enough. And people will have a greater need to share it.

What should I do if I receive such an email? Should I delete it? Should I try to check it?
If we are talking about chain emails, everyone has a way of dealing with them. I know from a lot of seniors we work with that it bothers them. But they do not know how to react so as not to disrupt their relationship with the loved one who sends them. It can be an old classmate, it can be a colleague from work… That’s why they are upset and incoming chain emails are usually deleted, they don’t react to them in any way. I recommand it. If these emails bother someone, it’s no problem to do so.

Then there are people who want to react one way or another, but don’t know exactly how. So maybe they say to the sender, “What are you sending me?” Then there are unnecessary conflicts. Therefore, together with the elders, we tried to compile guidelines on how to react so as not to disturb the relationship at the same time. Additionally, we run verification workshops for those who have the desire and interest to learn how to verify information.

Jaroslav Valuch

Jaroslav Valůch is the project manager of the organization Transitions, which focuses on media development. She manages projects focused on media literacy and disinformation. It also participates in the operation of the Factczech.cz server. It also contributes to media education for seniors. He is an experienced expert in the fields of media literacy, social media activism and communication with the population in crisis. It also deals with the issue of hate violence and hate speech. He has collaborated with dozens of organizations and civic initiatives in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Since 2005, Jaroslav Valůch has worked closely with the People in Need One World in Schools program to implement media literacy in the school curriculum.

Tomas Pika

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