How should we act in the face of the news in social media?

The Details of the Question

There is a lot of confusion in social media nowadays. People say different things. Man cannot know what to believe. How should a person who has Islamic sensibility act in the face of the news in social media? What do you advise?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is necessary to act cautiously related to the news in social media.

It is not permissible and it is a sin to share the news that has not been confirmed to be true. Many lies, slanders and claims along with some true news are shared in social media. Thus, people violate the rights of Allah, individuals and the public knowingly or unknowingly; one sin is multiplied and becomes thousands and even millions of sins.

As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following “It is enough of a lie (a sin in another narration) for a man to narrate everything he hears.” (Muslim, Muqaddima, 5; Abu Dawud, Adab, 80)

“It is enough of a lie for a man to narrate everything he hears.” (Muslim, Muqaddima, 5)

The Prophet, who was very sensitive related to telling lies, warned his ummah regarding the issue all the time and stated that telling lies could lead a person to Hell as follows:

“Keep to the truth all the time. Truth leads to goodness and goodness leads to Paradise. A person who continues to tell the truth and endeavors to tell the truth is recorded as truthful by Allah. Beware of telling a lie because telling a lie leads to evil and evil leads to Hell. A person who keeps telling lies and endeavors to tell a lie is recorded as a liar by Allah.” (Muslim, Birr and Sila, 105.)

Telling lies deliberately is a sin that leads man to Hell step by step; similarly, reporting a lie unknowingly by telling people whatever one hears, saying whatever one sees and sharing any message that he receives is also a sin.

The hadith “It is enough of a lie for a man to narrate everything he hears” shows clearly that it is a sin for a Muslim to report some information that he receives to others without checking whether it is true or not.

The hadith also orders a Muslim to become an investigative person by searching the source of the news so as not to be a “liar” by reporting some fake news. It is possible to see that order in the following verse:

“O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.” (al-Hujurat, 49/6)

The meaning and decree of the verse that it is not appropriate to accept the news given by unreliable people without searching that it is true in general and valid all the time and everywhere. That directive is important in terms of regular implementation of social and legal life and prevention of injustice and unrest. (Kur’an Yolu Tefsiri, the interpretation of the verse in question)

Besides, the issue of not harming people mentioned in the verse is a general principle of Islam. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following: “There is no harming in Islam or returning a harm with a harm.” (Muwatta, Aqdiya, 31; Ibn Majah, Ahkam, 17)

Lying is one of the acts that harm the honor and dignity of others the most. If a person conveys anything he hears to others without confirming whether it is true or not, it will be inevitable for him to be a means of lying; he might harm both himself and others due to that lie.

We see that the principle of “not telling everything you hear” is violated especially in virtual/digital life. Our world has become a small village in this age of speed in which we have difficulty in even following technological developments; an incident that occurs somewhere can reach other parts of the world in seconds.

Although it has positive aspects, fake news/information is put into circulation in social media sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, causing many people to be misinformed:
- Something that is not the hadith of the Prophet is reported as his hadith.
- Posts that offend or ridicule a person, or harm his pride and honor are shared
- Certain institutions are discredited.
..

In particular, due diligence is not shown related to the source of information that supports a person’s religious approach and worldview or criticizes/refutes opposing views; therefore, humanity is exposed to serious information pollution and disinformation.

Humanity has managed to overcome many diseases and epidemics but has often been helpless in the face of this epidemic of false information.

The solution lies in the following commands of Allah Almighty:

“And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” (al-Isra, 17/36)

“Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left.  Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).” (Qaf, 50/17-18)

A Muslim who accepts those verses as his guide remembers that he will be held responsible for every act he does and every word he says. He will not think, “Nobody sees and knows me” by hiding behind fake accounts. He knows that whatever is regarded a sin in real life is also a sin in virtual life. He does not share any information that he is not sure of due to the fear that it may harm his religion, state, any person or institution. He becomes aware that excuses like the following will not cause him to be excused: “That is how I heard it”; “Someone else sent it to me.” He is also aware that he will be held responsible for his posts that make people tense, cause them to panic, and cause indignation in society.

In conclusion, a Muslim is one whose hands and tongue are clean; he does not tell a lie knowingly or become a means of lies. He does not engage in any activity that may harm others. He takes every information with a grain of salt. He adopts the principle of “it is better not to trust” related to social media, which deserves the definition “fasiq”, particularly because it is a platform where fake news and information are often seen.

To sum up:

- Lying is a sin that should be avoided.

- A conscious Muslim should transfer the information that comes to him by researching it or consulting the experts of the issue. Otherwise, it is inevitable to fall into the quagmire of lies.

- It is a more appropriate attitude to be skeptical of some information, especially on social media, and not to trust until it is confirmed to be true.

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