[Answered] “In the era of growing social media tentacles across the globe, scrutiny of the facts and data is need of the hour.” Discuss.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Consequences of fake news and propaganda.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Fake news has existed since the dawn of the printing press but in the age of internet and social media, it has spread its tentacles. Manipulation of algorithms of social media and search engines to reach large audiences and mislead news consumers is a global trend now. Fake video clips, news stories with morphed media logos, bots, paid commentators have become very common. This demands a vigil society and scrutiny of all the facts and data.

Consequences of fake news spread:

  1. Political:Fake news is a threat to democracy. Easy access to large amounts of data, made it possible for political parties to profile individual voters and flood them with news, fake and real, that influence their voting behaviour. Political parties try to get political benefits by polarising the voter’s mind.
  2. Economic:Fake news has been used to deceive illiterate people financially. Example- Bitcoin benefits, Chit fund schemes introduced the concept of online fraud through spam emails. Hoaxes of GPS chips in the Rs 2,000 note after the demonetisation initiative of the government through both media and WhatsApp messages led to widespread confusion among holders of the new note.
  3. Society:Fake news can be used to create a communal environment. It influence the minds of common people and use social weaknesses to increase intolerance in the country. Example: Spreading fake photos to bring about communal clashes in the country. It can also result in deaths. For example, rumours about child-lifters and cattle thieves led to mob attacks and deaths across India.
  4. Security:Media companies in greed of getting TRPs and more viewership promote sensational news and false headlines. E.g circulation of false videos in Kashmir valley showing shocking attacks on the Army and inhumane repression of the civilians.
  5. International: The false portrayal of kashmir as a place of human right abuse by international media has created a false image of the nation.
  6. People’s faith: Fake news has reduced people’s belief in social, print and electronic media. In its purest form, fake news is completely made up, manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue.

What should be done?

  1. Awareness campaign: All the sections of the population must be made aware of the realities of propagandas and information war.
  2. Ordinary consumers of news can play a big role by refusing to pass on what they cannot independently verify with other sources.
  3. Websites that mimic well-known, credible media outlets in their name should be banned.
  4. Cyber ombudsman to deal with the credibility of news sources should be appointed to ensure right facts are reported.
  5. Schools should teach children about critical thinking should instil a Behaviour of questioning and fact checking in them.
  6. With the utilisation of metadata and human content moderation, government can prevent fake news, misinformation and even punish bad actors.
  7. The state police machinery should be strengthened to catch anyone responsible for spreading fake messages.
  8. Government should have independent agency to verify the data being circulated in social and other media. The agency should be tasked with presenting real facts and figures.
  9. Government should have mechanism for immediately issuing of notice against sites/people/agencies involved in spreading fake news through radio, messages, and media.
  10. Social media websites should be made accountable of such activities so that it becomes their responsibility to have better controlling restricting the spread of fake news.
  11. It should be mandatory for Print and Electronic media to have internal mechanism for verifying incidents, facts and figures.
  12. Public should not blindly trust any sensitive news and should not forward it to others and should inform concerned department about any fake post as soon as they come across.

Fake news can harm both democracy and the media business. Social vigilance against it is must. Proper actions need to be taken to ensure the distinction between news, opinion, and rumour. Hence it is high time that the government should take stern measures to curb fake news menace and protect Indian democracy.

Print Friendly and PDF