On March 8, 2021, the State Department of USA announced 16 winners of the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards. One of the winners was Nepal’s Muskan Khatun, a human rights activist, and an acid-attack victim whose activism contributed impactfully in drafting and approval of law that provisioned stricter punishment in crimes related to acid-attacks.
As soon as the news was out, Nepali media published the news with priority as it was the first time that a Nepali woman has won the IWOC Awards since its inception in 2007. However, most of the news also consisted of an additional sentence that Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai had also previously won the award. Khatun was also quoted as saying that she was happy to know that she was named for an award that Malala had previously received.
However, fact-checkers pointed out that Malala Yousafzai had never named for the IWOC Award.
The misinformation was first shared by the US Embassy in Nepal, which issued a press statement – posting them in their website and social media platform as well as sending it out to email lists, with that piece of misinformation. Nepal’s news media simply carried that press statement without verifying the statement.
On March 10, 2021, the US Embassy posted an apology on their Facebook page:
ABCDE Framework Analysis
|Prime actors:The US Embassy in Kathmandu.|
Secondary actors: Online media, social media influencers
|Transparency: The actor is transparent on statement and Facebook page.|
Intent: The behaviour suggests no aspersive intent.
Dependency: Press statement sent to media and published on social media channels.
|A press statement with false information.|
Harm: Impacted people’s general knowledge.
Synthetic: The content was unverified and false information.
Narrative(s): The content is aligned with the misinformation narrative.
|Target audience:Nepali population|
Platforms:Email-list and Social media
|Impacted people’s general knowledge with false information.|
Actor: US Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, which usually is a trusted source of information related to the USA and Nepali media, who carried forward the press statement coming in from US Embassy without minimum effort to verifying facts in the statement.
Behaviour: The actor was transparent in identifying in the press statement, Facebook page and was using lawful means of communication. The actor didn’t have an aspersive intent, and rather wanted to promote the award and the awardee comparing her to a world-renowned Nobel laureate.
Content: The content was a text statement about a Nepali activist named for IWOC Awards with a piece of misinformation presented as a fact.
Degree: The content was targeted to Nepali citizens and media as it was published by the US Embassy in Kathmandu and distributed through their platforms connecting Nepali citizens and media. The content was published in both Nepali and English language.
Effect: The misinformation caused mass sharing of a misinformation through social media by general public and republication by hundreds of media.
The case has been identified as an incident of misinformation. It was shared by a trustable entity to millions of people and journalists through their publishing platforms. The actor wanted to promote the award and the awardee comparing the Nepali winner to a world-renowned Nobel laureate therefore there was no malicious intention. However, it injected a misinformation in the general knowledge of thousands of people.
The case is a simple case of widely shared misinformation, unlikely to have any negative impact on people. The misinformation was shared unintentionally by a trusted source and was widely carried by the mainstream media and reshared by a large number of people without verifying it although a simple search was enough to verify. Although no negative impact, the misinformation is likely to stay with a lot of people for long, who would continue to believe that Malala Yousafzai received the IWOC Award before Nepal’s Muskan Khatun.
US Embassy Nepal’s Apology: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3701638439873188&id=108560955847639