Disinformation is everywhere in India
25, Mar 2019
With the Lok Sabha elections coming up, it is critically important that Indians have access to credible and trustworthy information before they vote. The problem is that many do not feel they do. In a brand new survey of English-language Internet users in India conducted by the University of Oxford, have found that a majority of the respondents are concerned with whether the news they come across online is real or fake.
What is fake news?
Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.
Driving force behind fake news:
- Getting easy viewership through sensational news-e.g. dubbing foreign prisoners as spies or terrorists without any proof
- Directed towards a particular organization or person with an intention to either glorify it or to bring malice.eg. a news channel was established to defend the accused in Jessica Lal murder case.
Risks of fake news:
Political: Swaying or polarising public opinion. Example Recent American election, UP elections where certain facts are quoted out of context/partially. Significant impact on the nature of polity.
Religious: Promoting religious ideologies. Glorifying one religion while despising others Ex. Right wing violence meted out by Gaurakshaks leads to religious polarisation and communal unrests.
Criminal: Sensationalising crimes by blowing them out of proportion. Misleads people rather than making them aware. Instils irrational fears.
Fake news has also been used to dupe gullible people financially. The reach of news has given chit fund schemes an altogether new arena as well as has introduced the concept of online fraud through spam mails.
It hampers spirit of common brotherhood and raises intolerance. Eg. 2012 mass exodus of North-Eastern people from Bangalore on false online threats.
Over the time it shapes the thinking of society at large. Portrayal of India as an unsafe destination for women by international media has created a false image of a nation.
- Independent, trusted and effective press regulation.
- Mainstream media must use social media toolsintensively in order to defend the truth, present the correct information and balance opinions.
- Curb media ownership. We need an open debate on the impact of media concentration on our democracy and wider culture. There should be clear limits on media ownership so that powerful proprietors with vested interests are not allowed to dominate the news agenda.
- Define fake news legally. Heavy punitive measures for whosoever violates the said definition.
- There should be grievance redressal mechanisms and arbitration spaces to resolve issues.
- Digital media literacy among people to increase scrutiny and feedbacks of the content.
- Technical solutions that assess the credibility of information circulating online are also needed.