Blurred Lines: When Fake News Becomes News
NEW DELHI: Duke, a nine year old Pyrenees dog has been re-elected as a mayor of cormorant, Minnesota. Do you think this is true or plain funny and false? Well the news is true.
The UN cultural agency, UNESCO awarded Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the title of best prime minister in the world. Can you spot if this piece of info is custom made to fool you or true? The news was completely hoax, which broke out on whatsapp groups and other social media platforms.
One can now pass off any information, tarnishing somebody’s image, raising communal disharmony, selling editorial spaces for payment or circulating whatsapp hoaxes. Some of the most basic ethics of journalism taught in every journalism class is to check the credibility of source before passing any information. However all journalism ethics now seem to be flouted in the post truth era.
Any piece is now written keeping in mind the readership value or broadcasted analysing its viewership. FAKE NEWS - a deliberate attempt to circulate misleading content associated with an indubitable propaganda or ideology, is emerging as a serious global phenomenon. Anyone with an internet connection and social media presence is generating content in clickbait wired world.
A survey report by BBC World tilted “The value of News and the importance of trust” revealed that 83% people in India are concerned about fake news and 72 % of them face a hard time in distinguishing real information from made up stories.
In recent turn of events, it is not only the clickbait websites capturing internet space, but also mainstream media equally contributing to the world of alternative facts and news.
“Instead of helping solve this issue, they have unfortunately started engaging in spreading fake news. I would in fact blame the mainstream media for making this fake news phenomenon as popular as it has gotten. Recently, almost all mainstream TV channels and news websites have engaged in it, perhaps under the influence of government sponsored organizations paying them to do so. Both government and opposition should call out on fake news content through their own channels. But unfortunately our government themselves are promoting and actively engaging in sharing fake news content.” said Dhruv Rathee, a famous YouTuber who is debunking fake news through Facebook and Youtube.
Amidst the struggle of millions of people lined up outside banks and ATM machines, the rumour mongering about Nano GPS chip in 2000 notes, bamboozled the public and their trust value.
The creation of a social and legal framework, that encourages journalists to respect and follow the established values of their craft, majorly revolves around viewership issues.
In the fierce battle of telecom giants claiming to provide access to the web at all times, the existence of internet manipulation for the purpose of spreading propagandas, discreditation, and spreading communal disharmony has become quite evident on social media.
“It's not only on websites; it's everywhere including facebook pages, twitter handles, etc. They are biased with just one goal to get thousands of shares just because people relate to it, and like the news. It's actually 'Sugar Coated Lies" are better than "Bitter Truth". These websites cater to people's tastes. Their motto is "you want to listen to a pleasing lie? Yes we have it". They publish customized news to specific crowd,” expressed Pankaj Jain, Social Media hoax slayer.
Passing off retouched images as a practice of emotional persuasion, or circulating hideous videos on whatsapp to ignite detestation is the secret of soaring popularity of these websites.
“Websites usually take gross videos from other counties which are processed and their narrative is remoulded. The recent episode of Jharkhand lynching portrays that people are not aware about the fact, that everything circulated on your whatsapp account is not true. When Reliance Jio launched many people in India for the first time got internet in their hands. A major thing about village versus urban area is that, in an urban area we are majorly nuclear families with limited communication, however in far flung villages, not every single person in a community needs to a have a cell phone for others to know the issue, “said Pratik Sinha, Alt news Head.
A lot of initiatives are now being floated to deal with such alternative facts, busting fake news websites and exposing the real truth.
“This all started with stupid pranks, fun messages taken seriously, which I used to tell my acquaintances, but then they started getting nastier comprising of politics, religion and capable of inciting riots. Initially I used to debunk all I came across but now people ask me whatever doubt they come across. I dig on Google, social media platforms, use some tools etc. to get the truth,” said Pankaj Jain.
Alt news Pratik Sinha started debunking of news on his facebook profile and later decided to start his own website to fight against fake news stuff. He investigated a video that was going viral, claiming how a Marwadi woman was married to a Muslim man, and was beaten for refusing to wear a burka. He found out that the video was of a woman being beaten up in Guatemala, which was passed off as an incident in India.
In the current scenario, humans tend to believe in stuff floating around, depending on their own political influences or preferences. However there is an urgent need for us to be rational and to find logic in the narrative hurled at us.