[Answered] “Policy discussions involving the public as well as tech solutions, would help fight fake news.” Comment.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Danger of fake news and why policies should focus on public and technology to check fake news spread.
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 unchecked. Manipulation of algorithms of social media and search engines to reach large audiences is a global trend now. Fake video clips, news stories with morphed logos, bots, paid commentators have become very common. This demands a public vigilance and awareness along with modern technological solutions to enhance scrutiny of all the facts and data.

Danger of fake news spread:

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. The false portrayal of kashmir as a place of human right abuse by international media has created a false image of the nation.
  6. 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.

Why policies should focus on public and technology to check fake news spread:

  1. Consumers play a large role in what content is created and how it is disseminate.
  2. Public must be better educated, so that they are better able to distinguish credible sources and stories from their counterparts.
  3. Ordinary consumers of news can play a big role by refusing to pass on what they cannot independently verify with other sources.
  4. Public need be educated about how news information propagates in today’s world, the harms of fake news, and how to identify it. Another approach would be to enable the consumer to learn more about the actors and stakeholders in a given story, better understand their affiliations, and to identify and question unverified details.
  5. Critical news consumption need to be incorporated into school curriculums or promoted through government-sponsored computer and content literacy tools and training programs.
  6. Content creators and content distributors need to adapt their professional norms to new technologies of distribution, better explain these norms to the public, and protect them from erosion. They should also engage in practices that increase the likelihood of producing trustworthy, high-quality information.
  7. Artificial intelligence can come handy to find fake news.
  8. With the utilisation of metadata and human content moderation, government can prevent fake news, misinformation and even punish bad actors.
  9. 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.

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