Before You Believe That WhatsApp Forward, Find Out If It’s Fake News

Fake news|झूठी ख़बरें 

India is the largest democracy in the world, people have been enjoying the democratic nature of this country since the formation of the constitution. Now if I tell you that the democratic establishment of this country is at risk, you might be surprised but this is the harsh reality, and the reason behind this is the propaganda of fake news.

The wave of fake news came into light during the Presidential Elections of the United States in 2016. It all started in Macedonia, with some youngsters creating pro-Trump websites to gain traffic and earn money through advertisements .i.e. clickbait. This business model eventually became successful, and believe it or not it had an impact on the election results too. The Guardian did a story on this issue, highlighting the business and the money involved in the fake news propaganda online.

But in India, the propaganda of fake news is not just a mere business model but also a political propaganda. The business of fake news involve politicians, journalists, political activists and even the mainstream media outlets, risking the trust of people; the ultimate goal of fake news is perception management. Photoshopped images, WhatsApp forwards and doctored videos are being posted online to manipulate the masses.

In May 2017, just a day before the third anniversary of the inauguration of the current central government, Bhartiya Janta Party, a mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand went on a killing spree, triggered by a simple WhatsApp message. Three innocent men were beaten to death by an uncontrolled mob that falsely assumed that those men were human traffickers, based on the warning they received in the message. A total of seven men were killed mercilessly, in a fury that was born on social media and based on baseless information that people received on WhatsApp in Jharkhand. Similar incidents have been reported from the West Bengal region too.

When I go through social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter etc, I find fake news quite often but the first noticeable event I came across was when a celebrated political leader posted fake news on social network was when— Lalu Prasad Yadav tweeted a doctored image of his own rally in order to increase his impact on social media. And after this, there were dozens of reports of different verified accounts posting fake news online.

Chhattisgarh’s PWD Minister Rajesh Munat, to promote his state’s impeccable infrastructure, shared a picture on Twitter of a Vietnamese bridge as a bridge in Raigarh.

The sad part is the involvement of mainstream media houses. In March last year, it was reported by some media houses that the UP government had launched a WhatsApp number to address public grievances. This number was actually started by Ghaziabad Railway Police to provide help during train journeys.

Online websites like www.hindutva.info, www.postcard.news, www.newspool.in and bbcnewshub have a huge traffic and are spreading mostly fake news. Not only this there are active pages on Facebook such as — “I SUPPORT RAHUL GANDHI”, “I SUPPORT NARENDRA MODI” and “PRESSTITUTES” have a strong audience base and are into money making through fake news and most of their posts are inclined towards spreading communal tensions.

These online platforms publish articles that are ought to be viral and are easily digestible.

The Facebook page “I Support Rahul Gandhi” with approximately nine thousand followers posted an image online which was shared more than five thousand times, stating that, “A research by BBC News Hub says that Modi in the list of most corrupt personalities stands seventh.”—This is actually a hoax, as the link to the given BBC media house is not the actual BBC media house, but a small time website that has nothing to do with the real BBC media house.

Even those so-called the political activists have given up all morals and their indulgence has shaken those who follow them. RSS Worker Puneet Sharma’s Twitter account is followed by Narendra Modi himself. Puneet Sharma shared a video of a gruesome murder in Mexico, stating that this was the video of the murder of an RSS worker in Kerala, and captioned it — “अगर यह देख कर भी हिंदुओ का ख़ून नहीं खौला तो वो ख़ून नहीं पानी है। (If this doesn’t make the blood of Hindus boil, then it is not blood, it is water).

Abhishek Mishra, a YouTuber, who has a good audience over his Twitter account, on August 8, 2017 tweeted — “BJP is world’s fourth most corrupt political party.” The link mentioned under this tweet was of an independent unverified website called hindi.siasat.com and when it was double checked this website turned out to be as fake as Mishra’s tweet.

In another incident, it was claimed that Infosys Co-founder Narayan Murthy praised PM Modi on social media: “I don’t say Modi is the best Prime minister, but it’s the first time I watched PM’s speech other than that on 15th August.” In response to this Mr Murthy stated, “While I have tremendous respect for our Prime Minister, I must say that are not my words.”

The truth is, due to the involvement of mainstream media in corruption, as exposed by Cobrapost’s Operation 136, people have somewhere lost faith in them. In this time, it is easier for small time independent websites to fool the masses. As a result, fake news is spreading ten times faster.

With an increase in the amount of traffic online, the effect of fake news is more drastic. Urban India has witnessed a growth of 9.66% from last year whereas rural India witnessed a growth of 14.11% in online traffic as compared to last year. 

To fight against fake news, new online websites have come up to assist us and to detect the doctored digital content in order to protect journalism.

The fake news buster websites are —

SM HOAX SLAYER (English)

ALT NEWS (English)

MEDIAVIGIL (Hindi)

There are certain ways by which one can identify the fake digital content —

• If you doubt the published article, Google it and if you do not see it on verified websites, the article is most likely to be fake. 

•If you doubt the published image; just verify the context of the image by clicking “Search Google for image”. Just by clicking the first image you will know it’s real published date on the internet and the context for which the photograph was uploaded will also be known.

So next time when you see a WhatsApp forward making a fuss, or any news on social media that looks quite unacceptable, do cross-examine. Trust the most trusted media outlets. Stay informed, and save the democratic establishment of this country by not falling prey to the fake news propaganda.

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