Evidently, lies spread more than truth on the internet. A group of scientists published a research report, “The spread of true and false news online,” in Science magazine in March 2018.
The study spanned ten years of Twitter, analysing over 100,000 contentious stories, most of which also spread to other social media platforms like Facebook.
According to Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, Facebook’s “trending news” feature helped aid the notorious “fake news” of the 2016 American election cycle; the feature has since been terminated.
The online catalyst for false news is not just found on social media. The larger media circuit has also flubbed. Without accusing anyone of malice, we may say that erroneous news, although retracted sometimes, has had tremendous consequences in our society.
While the malice of the Sanhedrin primarily led to the conviction of Christ, it’s not unlikely that some of the mob were misinformed religious people.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, mentioned that false accusations can proceed from ignorance and rashness, not just an ill will.
Twitter, Facebook, social media, and a desperate media cycle struggling to remain relevant have created a monster that loves to induce people to rash judgment. Disappointing to note is that with the advent of social media, it’s a fight to distinguish truth from slander on online news sources.
Videos and images of pastors performing absurd acts on their congregants – who are eagerly hoping to witness miracles – are not unusual in Africa. Images of ‘men of God’ stepping on followers, riding on their backs or spaying doom have drawn controversy across the interwebs.
Accordingly, most of this evidence is undeniably true and can be owned by the clerics in question.
However, a large proportion of it is dubious, made up and crafted by notorious cybersurfers with incredible photoshop mastery.
While we acknowledge that clerics have done crazy and incomprehensible things on and off record, some of the stories being flown around on the webs have a stark contrast with the truth.
Of late, various social media posts have claimed to show a Ugandan pastor walking on top of worshippers because he considers himself too holy to step on the ground.
The misleading Facebook post – archived here – has been shared around 700 times since it was published on April 25.
“Pastor Busoga of Uganda says he is so holy that he can’t walk on ground so as not to be contaminated. So his members submitted their bodies as a stepping stone,” read the caption.
The same photo was also retweeted more than 300 times last year from this Twitter handle which has more than 95,000 followers.
In 2017, this Youtuber cast doubts on claims that the man in the picture was a pastor and asked her followers to help her find out what really happened.
However, this particular image is misleading and does not show a pastor but the kyabazinga or traditional ruler of Busoga, one of the five constitutional monarchies of Uganda.
A comment in one of the posts had identified the man seen in the photo as the kyabazinga, William Gabula Nadiope, returning home from abroad.
Searching Google for the phrase “Kyabazinga of Busoga homecoming” led us to a video of the same scene, published on the YouTube channel of local television station NBS TV Uganda on December 2, 2015.
As the caption explained, it shows local residents celebrating the return of the kyabazinga after a year of studies in London.
Upon his return, hundreds of Busoga people gathered at Entebbe International airport to welcome him back home.
Ugandan journalist Grace Matsiko told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that allowing the kyabazinga to step on them is a traditional act of deference among his subjects in Busoga.
“Busoga subjects do it for the love of their king,” Matsiko said.
The kyabazinga himself shared images of the celebration on Twitter here in 2015.
The overwhelming love from my people keeps me a stride ahead,thank you for having me back .Good night pic.twitter.com/k22gYpcJzh
— Kyabazinga of Busoga (@KingGabulaIV) December 2, 2015
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