“NASA confirms Earth will experience 15 days of darkness in Nov 2017”
“A Jain monk attacked by Muslims”
“All EU passports to become dark blue”
“Coke to launch new flavours –avocado, sourdough and charcoal”
Outrageous headlines indeed! In fact ‘fake news’ was one of the words of the year in 2017. The recent debate on the topic about fake news has stirred up in India after the Information and Broadcasting Ministry modified guidelines for journalists’ accreditation stating that if a journalist is found to have “created and/or propagated” fake news, the journalist’s accreditation will be permanently cancelled.
Later on Prime Minister Narendra Modi ntervened and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Tuesday withdrew its press release which stated the modifications.
Now what is fake news?
Fake news has become a menace and no one knows what exactly to do about it. It comes in all sorts of forms. Take for example social media itself. Deceptive photographs on twitter or Facebook, false videos on YouTube have time and again misleaded people.
Certain websites drive content aiming for traffic. There might not be any facts that can be genuinely validated. In order to generate advertising income, stories that aren’t research driven are published.
Then there is a combination of true and manipulated stories that are mostly politically driven and have a tremendous influence. Certain publications that come up with light-hearted humour have existed since a long time. Although they claim to put in news that won’t adversely affect the masses, it does causes damage in the long run.
A week back Mahesh Hegde, the owner of Postcardnews was arrested for posting a fake news post. He published a story about a Jain monk with the caption “No one is safe in Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka”. Postcard published the news piece stating that the monk was attacked by a Muslim youth when the monk was actually injured in a road accident.
‘Altnews’ which records fake news had written that Postcard news is “mass producing fake news.” in May 2017. Most of the stories published in Postcard news were either communal or political in nature.
Altnews is a platform that has come out to stop the spreading of fake news in India. Often referred to as the slayer of fake news, Alt news is updated around twice or thrice in a day.
Effects of internet and social media
The internet and social media platforms have made the exchange of information much more easier. Earlier curating and distributing news was a lot tougher. This made it easier for regulation as well.
With the advent of Facebook, Twitter , Instagram, exchanging information has become a child’s play. Couple it with eye-catchy images and a viral post is in order. Also anyone can make a website with publishing platforms. This gives way to people who do not want any obstacles to make their information trend.
What can be done?
Identifying fake news isn’t easy. One may think that it can be tough to spot data that isn’t legitimate. But often people are bad at distinguishing between actual and fake information.
A few things to keep in mind:
- When you see a story that seems shady, take a look at the other stories carried out in the publication. If the rest also seem fishy then surely one must think twice before believing it.
- Do a photo check. Manipulated images mostly go on rounds with content that is irrelevant. You should do a google search and check the authenticity of the image.
- Be careful about news that claims to be backed up by polls. Often polls are manipulated to suit the interest of the readers. Also ensure to check the questions that were asked during the survey.
- Several stories are curated based on what people fear or are on how they anticipate evil. For example news of how the government plans to make a few changes in your residential area or society can be disturbing. If you feel you are thinking through your emotions and not your grey cells then it’s time to verify the source.
The world needs to know whats going on. If we look around there is so much to admire and be happy about. Is it worth worrying about baseless stories that might keep us engaged for a while? Let us know in the comments below.
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