Fake news is in real news again and this time, a funny move by the government. It seems that Government is aloof from the ground realities, or chose to remain so… (Update: PM Modi asks I&B Ministry to withdraw the fake news order, read below)
I read this report from HT, that fake news publishing journalists will lose their accreditation temporarily or permanently depending on the frequency of violations. Well, the jury is out there to judge but who is going to take the action? Just about a week ago, I had wrote an article about how farmer’s protest was being used in a twisted fashion to ignore the real crux of the protest itself. However, it was on digital media though, and for which we do not have any concrete rules yet.
According to the report:
“We have the Press Council of India for newspapers which is different from government and still self-regulatory enough to awaken its own conscience and take a decision that will bar such processes. Similarly, for television news you have the News Broadcasters Association. I’m hopeful that such a similar body will also emerge for social media at least in the news, opinion and entertainment content,” Irani said at a recent conference in New Delhi.
The minister said a line of ethics and a code of conduct had to be put in place to ensure that customers do not get affected by vested views in news, broadcasting and advertorial content. The efforts come even as governments around the world are figuring out ways to tackle fake news, especially in digital media. It is now widely believed that the Russians used fake news on Facebook to try and influence the outcome of the 2016 US election.(Hindustan Times)”
So WhatsUp Fake News?
The problem is that India is in a reactionary mode, when the intellectuals questioned on our Government’s action. Many countries have already launched investigations and are considering swift moves to ensure there is a curb on fake news. However, India’s stand is clearly not standing up against Facebook and other carriers of fake news but Journalists.
The real problem though, is that there is no way Govt. or an individual body / organization that is regulating news on social media.
And the government firmly believes that it is the news organizations that are spreading the fake news? Well, herein lies the devil! The last I checked, I had seen many accusations across media houses being cronies to a political party. Some of the current rumors say that Times Network is pro-Congress and Republic TV is pro-BJP. While in the state of Tamil Nadu, politics owning up the entire media, is no secret.
Fake news are now used as a medium to draft in ignorant people into the a belief that other party is wrong. Or glorify a party and their leaders. Or spread a religious hate in the name of an action or inaction. This is either being done systematically or just people who fan-follow a particular party or religious ideology. The real problem though, is that there is no way Govt. or an individual body / organization that is regulating news on social media.
What is the Govt. going to do now?
The real problem is that government is focusing on journalists, and not the subject matter itself. The double edged sword, if I may. Focusing on journalists may help the ruling party to keep them in check, and that journalists toe to their lines while ensuring intellectuals that they are trying to do something. I am not saying that Govt. is planning on doing that, however. But there is a possibility that it can happen, if the need arises.
Another issue, majority of fake news online is not published by journalists. Surprise! You will not get an easter egg if you guessed that already. Majority of the fake news is spread through domains that are bought temporarily. Websites are specifically created to publish fake stories. Or blogs written by fanatics! In fact, there are fake story factories that operate in India just like any other offices are run with financial support from who knows who.
With elections happening in the upcoming year, every party trying to compete will want to ensure that they have access to fake news. Because, in this country of intellectuals, there exists a creed that believes everything that they see online. Our blood is too easy to boil when we see a doctored video of an civil war elsewhere and the title of the video says – Jammu and Kashmir. Yes, even if they have never ever been to Jammu and Kashmir.
No action of Facebook or WhatsApp yet?
Well, according to Economic Times report, India is still deciding if we need to summon Facebook! While a notice was sent to Cambridge Analytica, they are yet to respond and have asked for more time. So yes, there is some movement. It is still reactionary, as an investigation may lead to an open can of worms that no one wants to see. At least in the political circles.There were some rumored links between Cambridge Analytica and Congress. Clearly, if it is true, the Biritsh firm failed in their delivery.
How to identify a fake news?
Well, that is a question we all have been asked, have not we? I, for one, am able to distinguish between fake news and real one if I read or see something that is too good to be true. Fake news is like those email scams originating from African continent. So here is a quick cheat sheet to ensure you are not falling for a fake news.
- If an article sides only one side of political or religion spectrum, then it could be fake news. Remember, real news will almost never side with a political or religion issue. It will state facts.
- Verify if similar news is available from other sources and not just one website. If it does not appear anywhere else, then chances are that it is genuinely fake.
There are many who edit videos and mix then with another audio and try to show someone or an idealogy in wrong light. Identifying fake news tends to be difficult for people who are old and are new to the digital world. However, in India, even youngsters are being swayed by such fake news. I just un-followed two of my friends from my Facebook because they almost always shared fake news. I tried to reason with them, however most of the time it was futile.
Update: PM Modi asks I&B Ministry to withdraw the fake news order
— ANI (@ANI) April 3, 2018
How do you identify a fake news article? If you have any tips, do not forget to comment down below and I will have them added on to the above list.