By Muna Al-Fuzai
Unfortunately these days, many rumors and fabricated stories are circulating on social media, especially on WhatsApp and Twitter. These lies may coincide with some people’s thoughts, fantasies or even evil wishes. It’s indeed annoying. Not all people are likely to seek the truth behind what they receive on their mobiles. Many people spread rumors, comment on them and resend them to others as a fact until the authorities step in to deny the matter.
Mostly, the rumors are false and contain misleading information. For example, recently there was a widespread rumor about the imposition of a curfew on people in Kuwait, and some people have also called for this publicly. I think this is dangerous, because it is a subject that touches the rights of people, their freedom of movement and their personal lives at a time when the authorities are making all efforts to direct people to avoid leaving the house except for necessities and needs.
The issue ended after a controversy on social media that led the government to deny its intention to impose a curfew on people, and only repeated that people should avoid crowding and gathering. The danger of the rumor is that it has misleading information, and it is one of the tools of psychological warfare in order to influence the psychological trends of people, their decisions and morale. It is an effective way to foment sedition, especially in a small community like Kuwait, because it depends on two elements – fear and desire.
I also believe that the rumor in Kuwait had a racist content against expatriates, which is really insulting, because the expatriates are here on work contracts and because there is someone who needs their services, so no one should use social media to insult others. Also, days ago, many people revolted against the gathering of expats by the beach on Twitter, and considered it a contempt of preventive measures against the spread of the virus and a challenge to the state, and demanded the deportation of these expats. But no one says explicitly that most expats live in very small apartments and do not have the luxury of large houses and gardens to enjoy sitting outdoors as they wish like Kuwaitis.
Going out with their family and children to parks or beaches is necessary for them, but many people used this to insult expatriates. They could’ve expressed their worries without insults. I also think that educating people to explain the harm of rumors in this period is extremely important, especially since we have a large number of uneducated laborers such as domestic workers and cleaners who need continuous guidance in their mother tongues.
I hope that the ministries of interior and health will intensify their activities by working to provide daily instructions in multiple Asian languages for these expats. I hope the government will provide specialists, writers and researchers to study ways to combat rumors in accordance to an accurate mechanism and objectives to navigate this crisis safely.