A Single Piece of Fake News Can Bring Us 'National Shame'

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In 2013, a fake video shared by hundreds of misinformed social media users had led to an obnoxious communal uprising in modern, secular, and free India called the Muzaffarnagar riots. The video showed a Muslim mob brutally killing a Hindu youth. Consequently, dozens were killed, approximately 40,000 had to flee their homes & the army was called in. Later, it was discovered as a two-year-old event that happened in Pakistan. Similarly, the Pehlu Khan case (mob-lynching) was also due to the spread of fake news. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. In Mahabharta, Guru Dronacharya could be killed only because he was misinformed by the Pandava camp that his son Ashvathama had been killed. Perhaps, it used to be a rare event then, but now it has risen to such an unprecedented level that it has become a new norm (Thanks to social media!!). Presently, we are witnessing infodemic, that is over-abundance of information where it is difficult to identify truthful & trustworthy source Today we don't know who should be trusted, which platform is most authentic, how to cross-check the facts & most importantly how to control 'the urge to share' and become the hero of one's WhatsApp group. Attention seeking attitude is infectious, it propagates at an amazing speed.

 

Let's trace the culprits:

* Mr. Attention Seeker- We, the citizens (having the fundamental right of speech & expression), are the biggest culprits. The spontaneous urge to share whatever we find tempting is ridiculing the creative and healthy information environment and promoting the cause of notorious elements of society who sow the seeds of misinformation.

* Mr. Hater- These are the ones who have painted themselves in communal colors and call themselves savior of religion or community interests.

* Journalists- Needless to state that journalism has attained a new low in recent times. Instead of fact-checking, they themselves engage in disseminating fake news and make the public consume the worst stuff in their prime time.

* Social Media Platforms- They run on algorithms, and the more the clickability, the higher the reach. Some websites even attract fake followers, fake likes for a price [Say, 2,000 Twitter followers for INR 2,500]

* Politicians- Mentioning at last because least can be expected from them. Sometimes, even the entire election campaign runs on some propaganda.

 

For example, alleged Cambridge Analytica's role in the past. Recently, with Election Commission's intervention, Facebook banned around 1,000 fake pages The victims include old poor citizen who had to leave his/her home to save a life, the child who is being brought up in such a radicalized environment, the poor youngster who gets lynched for the just rumor of killing gau maata. To sum up, the victim has been undeniably from a less-empowered group of citizens. With increasing internet penetration and social media users (for example, 3 crore Facebook users in India), India utterly needs new legislation to curb the menace of fake news on social media. It poses challenges on the technological front to identify perpetrators, but somehow this needs to be done to protect our vibrant culture from the havoc of misinformation.

 

The time is high to exercise reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression to protect social harmony. In this regard, we need to follow the Kerala model by raising awareness among the masses through 'fake news class'. Certainly, China's model of not allowing some social media is too restrictive, conservative, and thus, disgusting At the end of the day, it depends on us what we consume and what we disseminate. Falsity is profitable and goes more viral than truth on social platforms. It brings about a huge liar's dividend. Hence, we need to equip ourselves with the fact-checking ability & promptly report fake news or hate speeches. Interestingly, the first uploader/ spreader of fake news in the Muzaffarnagar case perhaps remains unidentified to date.

The moral of the story - A single piece of fake news can bring us 'national shame'

 

 

 

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