Organizations have always had to be concerned about false information circulating about them that could damage reputations. P&G, for instance has battled false claims its founder sold his sole to the devil for decades. Starbucks and McDonald’s have also had to fight damaging, false information. We might call these situations rumors or even fake news. The key defining characteristics is the information is false and threats to damage an organization’s reputation. Fake news is an ambiguous term but I am using it here to denote false information presented to appear as real news.
Qatar has many problems with the current sanctions by neighboring countries. There has been a number of controversies surrounding their hosting of Fifa’s 2022 World Cup. A few days ago a story appeared on the web site of what seemed to be the Swiss news publication The Local. The story claimed six Arab nations would boycott the 2022 World Cup. There was even a quotation from Fifa president Gianni Infantino. The web site was a copycat of The Local. Management of The Local claimed the news publication never ran such a story and Infantino denied the words were his. However, several major news outlets carried the story thereby giving credibility to the false information.
Organizations must now monitor their environments for false information being disseminated as news (fake news). We can add one more liability created by the Internet and one more appropriate application of denial during a paracrisis or actual reputational crisis.
Questions to Consider
1. What are some of the problems when trying to use the term fake news?
2. How does this case illustrate the potential damage fake news can inflict on an organization?
3. Even with denial, does fake news create a lingering effect for organizations? Why or why not.