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High Time To Fight Fake News

 High Time To Fight Fake News

Assistant Editor

03 Apr, 2019

Fake News refers to false, usually sensational, information disseminated under the impression of news reporting. These days the incidents of fake news are increasing drastically. It is mainly because of the proliferation of user based platforms for example Facebook, WhatsApp etc. Another reason of the same is the availability of inexpensive internet and social sites. These have indeed caused extraordinary rise in the incidents of fake news among the masses. Slowly and steadily the internet and social media has disrupted the traditional news channels. Earlier approximately a few decades back, the internet usage for news propagation was extremely low, basically because of that the people depended upon media for the authenticity of news. At that point of time the creation of information and its distribution was extremely expensive and regulated. These days after the coming up of social media, there is a lot of freedom available. The sites provide the users n open platform which largely unregulated. Anyone can create and disseminate information over such platforms. There are hardly any barriers that can check the authenticity and veracity of the news that is spread through social media platforms. The main reasons for creation of fake news are as follows:

In order to increase the web traffic and generate revenue from the advertisements;

To attract people towards a particular viewpoint or ideology;

To divert people’s attention from an immensely serious issue to an issue which is less important;

To instigate people based on their religious and emotional sentiments for some vested interest;

To defame any individual, community or government in the eyes of the society.

In the recent past, a lot of incidents have occurred wherein a large number of false messages relating to child kidnappings were spread through platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp messaging service. This has led to the killing of almost two dozen people in India due to the mobs driven by fake news. These incidents are not limited to any particular place but are spread among various states of India. Some of the instances are as follows:

Karnataka: In the Murki Village Bidar in Karnataka recently a mob of over 200 people assaulted a man named Mohammed Azam. He was a UK-educated IT worker. He along with his friends, over the false assumption of them being child Kidnappers were assaulted. Mohd. Azam died and at least two of his friends were critically injured.


Manipur: In the Champhai and Saikul villages of Kangpokpi district, Manipur, two unidentified men were brutally killed after being beaten up by the local people. They were under the suspicion that those two men were child-lifters.


West Bengal: In the outer areas of Bolpur town of West Bengal a middle-aged man was badly beaten up by villagers on the pretext of him being a child-lifter.


Maharashtra: In Rainpada Village, which is a remote location in Maharashtra around five people were brutally beaten up by a mob leading to their death. The incident is said to have been triggered by rumors leading to child-lifting gang being active in the area.


Tripura: Sukanta Chakraborty, a person who was hired by authorities in South Tripura in order to dismiss rumours of child-lifters was lynched by a mob causing to his death.


Indeed presence of fake news is not a new thing. The social media platforms have increased its reach and propagation speed. Fake news spreads just like fire. Most of the users of social media hardly cross check that how authentic of true is the news that they are passing on. This in turn is creating hysteria among the people of the society. Due to the absence of an effective regulatory mechanism social media platforms are proving extremely dangerous for all. It may ignite the sparks of communal or religious violence, which shall challenge the peace, law and order of the society at large. It is high time that something is done in order to check the spread of fake news on social media. Some of the social media platforms have imposed certain measures in this regard: (a) Whatsapp has introduced a feature that labels forwarded messages in order to make the recipients aware that the particular message has not been composed by the sender and it is being forwarded blindly.

(b) It has launched another new setting that shall help the administrators to decide that who shall get to send messages within individual groups.

(c) The company had tied up with Boom Live – which is a fact-checking organisation – in order to curb fake news.

(d) WhatsApp has also planned to work on new projects with the help of leading academic experts in India to learn more about the spread of misinformation, which shall help in informing additional product improvements in the future.

(e) Facebook has also expanded its test to fact-check photos and videos, and has initiated action against new kinds of repeat offenders and has improvised its fact-checking program to new countries.

(f) A spokesperson for WhatsApp stated that “As a starting point, we at facebook are planning to soon publish new educational materials around misinformation and conduct our news literacy workshops.”

More such measures are required to be introduced by social media platforms in order to improve the present situation.

By: Anuja Arora