Fake news starts an Israel-Pakistan Twitter dispute

Bogus internet articles can have serious consequences.

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Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Reuters/Kacper Pempel

There's no question that fake online news can have dire consequences, but it's now clear that this is true even on an international scale. After a false story claimed that Israel was threatening to nuke Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria, Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja M. Asif warned Israel that his country could retaliate with nuclear weapons if necessary. He later backtracked by saying that Pakistan was peaceful and had nukes solely as a "deterrence to protect our freedom," but only after Israel's Ministry of Defense noted that the offending statement (attributed to former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon) didn't exist.

Much of the onus for the gaffe is on Asif. You'd think that a major political figure would be extra-skeptical of news sources, and would think twice before sending tweets hinting at the use of weapons that could kill millions of people. However, this illustrates the importance of fighting fake news, whether it's by downplaying its presence, blocking it or starving it of ad money. Just because you're in a position of power doesn't mean you can't be tricked by a plausible-looking fantasy piece -- reducing or fact-checking fake news can prevent these political incidents from happening in the future.

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