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Something funny happened with Fake news reaction India!

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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.

Fake news? Journalists to lose accredition if found faking news. However, that is the wrong target group!
Fake news? Journalists to lose accredition if found faking news. However, that is the wrong target group!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
You will never know which medium it can filter through! Do not believe everything what you see and what you hear! #SayNoToFakeNews
You will never know which medium it can filter through! Do not believe everything what you see and what you hear! #SayNoToFakeNews

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

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. 

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2 Comments
  1. Sriram R says

    Fake news is not going to be addressed quickly at all. It will take its time. Its a start that the government is doing but if you look at the order carefully it only talks of losing accreditation. The real question is how many journalists have accreditation. Journalists have now become cheerleaders for either side and have become jokers and entertainers more than proper reporters that report facts and let people decide. When you look at the interviews conducted by senior journalists, you realise that the pen, the ink in the pen, the hand that holds the pen and the life that moves the hand is completely subservient to a party or ideology. Same language and words in tweets of journalists is also driven by ideology and probably money. Also fake news get shared on various websites simultaneously and even big publications are party to it. So multiple reputed sources also share fake news.

    At one time if a journalist got hurt, the entire group protested but today there is cynicism about the integrity of the person and publication and a protest is dismissed as lack of freebies or access to newsmakers. We have to start the clean up process because news is entertainment today and prime time is when you keep throwing dirt around in the loudest possible voices. Reporting of facts is completely dead in the profit and ideology driven news room and press.

    1. Hemal Shah says

      Woh! That was your first comment on my blog, ever! Welcome Sriram!

      I agree with what you said mate, that it is difficult to get rid of Fake news completely. However, it is easier to educate people if they are willing to learn how to ignore fake news. That should do, but it is easier said that done. There are a lot of Indians who do not buy in the fake news, and 10 or 15 times more people who do. The times are such that people really have zero tolerance because all they want to do is react to anything and everything that just comes across them. Verification of the facts is a thing of the past, and as you rightly said, in today’s time the buzz word of click bait has even bent large media houses for their own profit.

      Journalist accreditation is a different ball game altogether in this news piece. My guess is that they are targeted under the guise of fake news. Majority of the fake news is available online with people who create fake news dedicated websites like the famous one that was in news recently for arrest of its editor. And they are not journalist. If the government was serious about curbing fake news, it would have taken actions long ago. This one is a half baked attempt at trying to gain political mileage than doing anything to reduce fakenews.

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