Fake news is a serious concern and a big challenge for the news industry these days. Ever since the internet revolution started, it has provided a soft ground for spreading fake news and has become the primary cause of misinformation, inaccuracy in news, misleading news stories, half-truths and sometimes highly sensational reporting, done to garner attention, mislead, deceive or defame. It has been observed that fake news spreads faster when it provides misinformation that is aligned with the audience’s point of view because such content is not likely to be questioned or discounted.
Misleading news is becoming dangerous for every establishment. The advancement of internet and easy access to social media is largely promoting fake news. We could say that social media is the hub of news like that and almost all of it is largely spread through socially popular sites like Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp. This has led to severe criticism for these sites too. In recent years, mob attacks, rumours, false allegations, intent to defame, political propaganda etc are rising via Whatsapp and other forms of social media. According to BBC, at least 31 people have been killed and dozens more injured in India between February 2014 and July 2018, as a result of rumours spread.
In my previous article, I had stated that it’s our responsibility to make an effort towards managing the internet, which should be bereft of hatred and all things evil, because the internet is not a place for negativity.
In light of the issues surrounding fake news and its challenges, I received opinions from two students of Darrang College, Tezpur, Assam, Simanta Thapa and Akash Sharma. Simanta asserted that fake news is essentially incorrect and inaccurate information that is being spread both intentionally and unintentionally. Fake news intends to blame others, spreads hatred, seeks attention or political gains. It’s largely spread on social media, but TV and print media are instrumental in the spread too. “To identify fake news we must be sure of the authenticity of the source, and a lot of it could be verified on Google too”, he said.
Akash too had an important perspective, with more clarity. According to him, “We are our own best judges when it comes to assessing misinformation. I would always assume that if a piece does not meet my standard of beliefs in today’s society, that would amount to fake news. However, differing opinions, viewpoints and ways of life are the very heartbeat of a healthy society, so is our ability to set aside those differences and come together in times of crisis and become our better selves. That’s when we really discover that we have more similarities than our differences would suggest. This brings me to another point. Never believe statistics unless you have verified them yourself, because even data points can be manipulated even if they seem accurate. In a world where social media is the go-to thing for many of us, we should be very clear of the fact that fake news needs to be tackled well, and before sharing anything on social media platforms we should cross-examine the news and its validity, at least twice.”
According to Pramod Khanal, an ex-student of Bodoland University, Kokrajhar, Assam, “In current days, most people believe in social media posts and it’s become a serious problem, affecting people’s lives too. Therefore, we should start thinking logically and set a critical mindset for every news that is heard or read & research facts before believing the news”. He also spoke of certain limitations of the media industry, restrictions & boundaries for social media & strict laws to counter fake news by the government.
Along with these, there are also some fake news buster news portals or online platforms that are working very hard to counter fake news. You can take the help of Alt News, SM Hoax Slayer, and Boom Fact Checking.
Fake news can’t be stopped completely, but we can certainly minimize it to a large extent. As individuals, we all have personal biases, likes and interests. Social media is the platform to discover that, for we like the stories and posts that conform to our beliefs. There are several fan pages of politicians, film stars, cricketers and other celebrities. We ‘like’ them out of our own interests & follow their posts. But besides that, it’s also true that Facebook or social media feed is the hub of fake news. We pick up the story or post which may be deeply asserted on our interests or likes, then we share or forward it. We never rationally pick up the story published on social media nor do we research the post that is true or false. We never care to confirm if its just an opinion of an individual, we simply just share it, at the same time, knowingly or unknowingly, promoting & spreading fake news. Therefore, we need to use social media judiciously and must agree that every post on the internet is not true. Remember, a wrong news can take someone’s life! If you are not sure of the facts, please don’t share it on social media. Be the responsible one!
Once I heard someone say fake news is fair enough if the intention is good. Just listening to something like that was horrifying. Fake is fake, it’s no longer associated with ‘good intention’. If we go on like that, then cheating in an exam would also be quite fair, because of the intention to pass the exam.
To conclude, fake news in India right now is a highly infuriating issue. It comes at the cost of our lives and continues to threaten our society’s integrity. Here it is important to mention that media includes TV too, which catalyses the spread and promotion of fake news, just to garner a high TRPs. In my opinion, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India should introduce a strong law against fake news and should come up with regulations and guidelines for the media industry, be it social or traditional media, to counter fake news. There should be a separate branch or a different commission in the Ministry to combat fake news. Creating awareness among masses through campaigns, jointly led by the corporate and the government authorities, is also the need of the hour. But most importantly, we as individuals need to take stand against fake news, in whichever way possible.