The Fake News Hysteria

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Yes! You read it right. Currently, we live in world where rumours are more exciting than the truth. In fact, nobody wants to know the truth. There is a trend going on where we believe that there is no point wasting time in chasing the truth. Nobody wants to dig deeper and come out with real grounds. This is simply because no one is interested in the truth. So the big question is ‘how much damage do we afford because of this wildness?’

The social media platforms in today’s society is wildly used for social interaction and access to news and information as well as to share, create, and spread information. With this connectedness also comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, one of the widely used social media platform WhatsApp has been grappling with a fake news and rumour-mongering problem in India. In fact, it has created a whirlpool of misinformation and created unwelcome ripples that resulted in loss of many innocent lives over the past months in the name of traditions and religion. Unfortunately, with time things have become more abysmal. Let us take a look at all the dramatic disinformation that originated on WhatsApp and created furore:

  • Everyone do remember a photo that showed a younger, humble Modi sweeping the floors right before the 2014 parliamentary election in the country. The photo went viral overnight and was shared by many as a symbol of Modi’s modest roots. However, the photo was later debunked as a doctored image of another man. Nevertheless, the truth didn’t matter and Modi went on to win the election and was became the Prime Minister of the country.
  • A simple WhatsApp message triggered a mass killing in the eastern state of Jharkhand just days before the third anniversary of the BJP government.
  • Innocent men were beaten to death by an angry mob that wrongly believed them to be human traffickers resulting from a warning message shared on WhatsApp.
  • Cash-filled boxes and an underground tunnel discovered by a raid on politician V K Sasikala that destroyed her image in the eyes of her admirers. When investigated, it was found that they were pictures from two completely unrelated news stories.
  • The hoax of 2,000 rupee notes with GPS chips post demonetisation in 2016 actually made us believe in this new technology advancement.
  • WhatsApp forwards which has become an easy platform for hate mongers who focuses on creating or worsening communal divides, made BJP leader Vijeta Malik to share a screenshot from a local feature film showing a woman being molested, and tried to pass it as an image of Muslims molesting Hindu women.
  • Multiple videos shared on WhatsApp showed Indian Muslims celebrating the victory of Pakistan. None of them were genuine but put the security of Muslims men women and children at risk. Some of them did led to communal tensions and violent incidents in parts of India.
  • More than a dozen people have been killed across India since May in violence fuelled mainly by messages on WhatsApp service.
  • A string of lynching of Muslim men over fake WhatsApp forwards and sharing of those lynching via videos has become the order of the day. This continues to work with horrific consequences.

The above-mentioned incidents is just a small reflection of a bigger picture. The picture based on fake information is building fear psychosis among people. It has added to the tension within communities, loss of lives because of false information and rumours. It also aids in upholding and pushing through a certain dirty political agenda where there is someone minting money or making other profits from such lies.

The good news, however, is that WhatsApp is working to give people control over safety features as well as how to spot fake news and hoaxes. In the last few days, WhatsApp has given group administrators control over which members can post messages, thus, reducing the spread of unwanted messages in private groups and chats.

Efforts are also being made by portals like Altnews.in to create awareness and educate people to know how to spot fake news and hoaxes circulating online.