Fake News, a Swelling Headache for Companies

Gearing up for Aviation conference: PrideInn MD Mr. Hasnain Noorani pointing at where Routes Africa will take place. This event will be held in Mombasa as part of a long-term commitment by Routes to help develop new routes to, from and within the continent.

By Hasnain Noorani

While every industry is in conservation mode, one industry which is working overtime is the fake news industry. Businesses and society at large have to fight multiple enemies, visible and invisible during this time. Companies today are faced with the task of dealing with the increasing threat and vicious claws of online fake news sites and malicious bloggers. 

Enter the COVID-19 crisis, consumers are relying more on search and digital media to discover the latest updates from brands. While most of the concern over fake news centers is the ways that distorted and fabricated information is splitting politics, the trend creates serious business risk for individual companies and entrepreneurs. Fake news is powerful enough to shake technology juggernauts, crush world famous personalities, and wipe entire businesses right off the map. And yet people still believe it.

Fake news may seem new, but the platforms being used are the only new thing about it. Propaganda has been around for centuries, and the internet is only the latest means of communication to be abused to spread lies and misinformation.

While the fake news is currently a thorny issue to businesses, it’s been a problem in the corporate world for a long time. Fake news that generates headlines can and has hurt countries and companies at large.  Tainting a country’s or company’s image and reputation as well as setting off a public relations nightmare that is, in many cases, irreversible.

A bad news story can destroy repute of a business, or cause unreasonable customer expectations. Unethical businesses can also generate fake news or reviews in order to boost their own stature or profits.

At a business and personal level, it could be equally perilous. Fake statements by chief executives or Managing Directors could throw businesses into turmoil. False statements could be created about a corporate, with devastating effects.

If fake news spreads about a business, or if a business is subject to fake damning reviews, it can negatively impact consumer confidence. If less people feel confidently about your product or service, then less people are likely to spend money on it. Some businesses may be able to turn the situation around with just a statement, but for others, it may necessitate an aggressive and costly marketing campaign.

Having said that, the financial damage of fake news can stem beyond simply less revenue and expensive reparation. The economic losses underline the rise of the spread of misinformation and fake news as a top global risk, causing detriment to major sectors including healthcare, ecommerce, media, and finance.

Fake news relies on human instinct of believing something must be true if thousands are talking about it. In addition, the bandwagon effect causes many people to vie for social acceptance, over science and research saying otherwise.

In 2016, Coca-Cola experienced the harmful impact of fake news when a false story circulated swiftly on Facebook. The story claimed that the Food and Drug Administration had shut down a Dasani plant after discovering a parasite in the water. Coca-Cola called the report “false and inflammatory”, asserting there was no recall of the water bottle brand in the U.S.

Companies can be especially vulnerable to false information, particularly because of the speed with which it can spread. This can be up to six times faster than ‘normal’ news, propelled by instant messaging and in particular dissemination not by individuals but networks of bots, which typically account for 25% of total traffic.

The writer is the CEO and Founder of PrideInn group of Hotels