The fake news and propaganda war over little Bana of Aleppo, Syria
The war in Aleppo, Syria, has created many powerful visual images on social media. Thanks to the auto-scrolling of Facebook videos, and close captions provided by video producers, we cannot avoid disturbing clips like the one below. And many of us follow (what we believe to be) the poignant Twitter feeds of the Aleppo residents like the little Syrian girl Bana. But in the post-factual Internet of 2016, this narrative has been challenged as fake news and propaganda.
There are roughly the same number of views for this clip below which argues that the US is funding terrorism in Syria and that the clips and tweets described above are propaganda to support regime change.
There are sites which argue that the Twitter feed of Bana the little Syrian girl is actually Al Quaeda propaganda (http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/11/29/child-exploitation-who-is-bana-of-aleppo/ and https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201612161048599179-aleppo-bana-twitter/)
On the other hand, there are sites that argue that Bana's tweets are authentic, complete with geolocation (https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2016/12/14/bana-alabed-verification-using-open-source-information/).
Bana herself appears to be real, judging from this video interview after she was evacuated from Aleppo. But there will soon be sites claiming that this video was faked.
Both sides of the argument claim that the other side is pushing fake news and propaganda - the irony that fake news often labels the real news as 'fake'. Some of the Facebook comments are planted to support their side of the argument.
This is a challenge for media literacy and critical thinking, because we have to carefully evaluate which source we believe. The power of visuals often bypasses this analysis, especially if what we see corresponds to beliefs that we already have e.g. Assad is a murderous oppressor (one side) or US is destabilizing regimes (the other side). In this case, both sets of beliefs may have elements of truth.
So which side do you believe?
Here are some resources from the National Library Board to help develop critical thinking - http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/ - with actual lessons at http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/elearn-centre/
It may change your view of the world.