Fake News on Social Media: Hidden Pandemic

In this era of social media where people can learn, write, or spread news just by a single click, we have come across a new form of crime i.e spreading fake news.
Fake news is nothing but manipulation of facts and presenting it on social media to create chaos and nowadays often used to defame someone.
Today’s youth are so impulsive that it’s just easy for them to write an article or a post about something and create hate amongst the people or a specific community. India has not yeh criminalized fake news or spread of fake news, but it is taken care with the help of cyber law in the country which was established by the Information Technology Act, 2000
Fake news is not a very new concept but it’s a new concept on social media. It is hard to rely on any social media news these days or any video or even voice messages. The most recent social media blunder is ‘BOYS LOCKER ROOM’
After so much investigation and factual checking, a lot of information came out which were manipulated to gain public attention or for that matter create hate amongst gender. The whole issue went viral in a day. It is alright to stand for one’s right and let me people know about the wrongdoers, but this power is misused to such an extent that people have lost their sons, daughters just because of some media rumor.
Social media is a platform that can either change a country or rage a country. Fake news or false information is related to the information shared on social media i.e. in print or textual format or even fake voice record posted on various online websites.
Expression of one’s opinion is a fundamental right of every citizen but what about the duty that comes with it, the duty to refrain yourself from defaming someone? Or should I say DUTY TO THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK/POST?
News is meant to show you the reality but when it hides the reality from you or diverts you from knowing the truth, it’s no more news.
We live in a world where the source of news is the last thing we bother about, people are so full of rage inside, just a fake video/voice record can create all kinds to hate and opinion in few seconds and probably that’s the reason hatred towards the community, caste, gender, profession, political agenda is so much. Drama and news shouldn’t be read together, because that’s where there is a line, but none the less it’s all drama what people look for in news these days.
Online media provides an opportunity to people access democracy by spreading news across the world and access the right to information as well, the power of social media is so dynamic that it is very easy for someone to create false news and spread like fire. We live in an era where nobody has time to read newspapers and whatever is displayed of social media is considered a reliable source because it is easy to access, time-saving plus you don’t have to carry something extra, it is on your phone or laptop anytime, anywhere.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), ‘Freedom of Expression’ discusses the right to freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. Though the Article gives public a right to express, it also qualifies the right by stating that this freedom of expression can only be exercised subject to certain such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law. Such qualifications shall be based keeping in mind national security, territorial integrity, public safety, disorder or crime, health or morals, reputation or rights of others, the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintenance of authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Although India is not a member of ECHR, but the convention provides important information related to what news should be spread and penalizing of false news.
It is been observed and even written in various articles that’s the most amount of fake news is spread in India though WhatsApp and India is the largest market in the world for WhatsApp. More than 400 million people have access to internet and WhatsApp which is a funny thing if you see, because only 76 million people have access to clean water, 200 million people have zero access to electricity and a country where the literacy rate is considered “sluggish”. These numbers can very well explain the power of social media specially in India.
We think real threat to false news is uneducated people but its again FALSE NEWS, most of the fake news are spread in civil society with bunch of educated idiots. India does not criminalize false news even tho it comes under the world’s most fake news published countries which is topped by Finland.

The purpose of fake news is not only to defame a person by also to create chaos in public, for instance: more than 500 workers gathered on Bandra station in Mumbai, India on 15th April 2020 because they heard that trains would function after the 2nd lockdown. This false information created so much public disturbance that police force actions were taken and the CM was held answerable to that. Some people also agree that all this is some type of political propaganda, there is no proper evidence to that statement tho. Any deliberate or unintended fake or inaccurate reporting either in electronic, print, or social media and particularly web portals has a serious and inevitable potential of causing panic amongst large sections of the society. Fake news on social media is at such a high rate that every 1 news out of 5 is found false at some point or the other. The Supreme court of India have recently dealt with the problem of fake news being circulated in the nation while addressing the Public Interest Litigation filed by two advocates seeking directions to the Government for redressal of grievances of plight of thousands of migrant laborers and their welfare on account of Lockdown. Solicitor General Mr. Tushar Mehta said that the main issue involved is plight of the thousands of migrant laborers who are walking across hundreds of kilometers from their work place to their native villages along with their families. The petitioners also sought direction from the Court on fake news being spread by electronic, print or social media and its menace on account of Corona Virus.

It’s not just misleading the society but there has been time when false case allegations have taken life of people, the most recent example is of Manav Singh, a guy aged 17 years old killed himself because he was accused of false sexual harassment statements on social media and that went viral after which is received several death threats and insult on media platform, he couldn’t handle the mental pressure he had to go through, he killed himself, just because someone sitting behind a technical gadget decided to be inhumane. After investigation it was found out that the girl had no proof of anything she said and all the statements she posted on social media were false.
3In October, 2017, the news about Las Vegas massacre which killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500 people, started pouring in the Google and Facebook displaying false reports on the unfolding tragedy, underscoring the failure of the internet’s largest news platforms to manage misinformation. Facebook searches for the name of the misidentified suspect generated a number of fake news, and the social network’s “Trending Topic” page for the shooting directed the users toward more false reports, including stories by Russian propaganda site Sputnik with headlines such as “FBI Says Las Vegas Shooter Has Connection With Daesh Terror (ISIS) Group
In March 2018, one such viral news was spread in a Village in Telangana, named JogulambaGadwal, a rumor was spread through WhatsApp that’s someone is kidnapping the children and killing them, people were scared and were afraid to send their kids to school, later on after investigation it was found out was the source of news was fake.

A couple of years ago, a video was allegedly spread by some miscreants on WhatsApp and other social media in Muzaffarnagar in northern state of Uttar Pradesh which sparked off intense communal violence leading to killings of many belongings to different communities.
The platform is used to spread news in seconds all across the world but what if the news is fake? What if people without considering the facts believe on a twitter post or Instagram story and make up their mind already? Cyber Crime rates have jumped up in the past 3 years like there is no tomorrow and of the major reasons for this is mis use of words and manipulation of facts to spread fake news across the country. the potential of it resulting in mob violence, as was the case where at least 20 people were killed in 2018 as a result of misinformation circulated on social media. Just with a click on the hashtag button a new agenda is created for public discussion and opinion, I won’t say it’s a bad thing but are all the agendas really true facts or just mere statements to insult of defame a person, place or for that matter even political party.
Apart from self-regulatory measures, government intervention is also one of the most common methods implemented by nations around the world to combat fake news. Here, the government is expected to intervene by bringing in a law to restrict the usage or penalize the perpetrators if the information they share on social media platforms does not conform to certain standards. The following segment discusses policy measures taken by some of the countries to regulate fake news and enable vibrancy of the virtual public sphere. Websites such as google is taking efforts to help people get rid of fake news by mentioning about it on their website and search

engine. If you go to google you will see written “helpful tips to avoid covid19 online scam”
It’s very important for all of us to understand that for someone its just a statement, but imagine something which is false and is read by the entire online committee where millions of people are reading the false accusation and forming opinion on that, the authenticity of the news is lost.
Propaganda campaign always comes with the question: Why. We discuss the motivations behind fake news: sometimes it’s simply a desire for monetary gain via advertising. In other cases, the goals can vary from the criminal to the political. Regardless of the motive, the success of any propaganda campaign will ultimately be based on how much it affects the real world.

There are few ways I would like to suggest the audience which would help them to tackle fake news in their day to day life:
➢ Think before you share: just give a thought whether the source of the news is reliable or not and be little sensitive towards the facts, that brings me to the second point,
➢ Verify the source of your news and check multiple data: this can be time consuming but at least people will not forward data without verifying it and if some news is useless for them, they might not forward it at all and the link of false news can be broken.
➢ Try relying on named sources and not anonymous news: try finding the root of the news and the first publisher of the news, this might help you to differentiate between rumor and real facts.
➢ Don’t rely only on headlines: read the whole content of any news and you will be able to find the loopholes if its false by any means, headline are often outrageous and just to seek public’s attention.
➢ If you come across a violent news, find multiple sources of it.
➢ Ask the expert: there are various cyber law departments that deal with fake news, if you come across one try to report if as soon as possible.
➢ Spread awareness: often in Indian household parents or grandparents specially reply on WhatsApp and Facebook posts, spread awareness amongst them, tell them these points and how social media is a junkbox for false news all across.

Small steps would slowly lead to bigger solutions.
I believe that today’s youth can make a big change, the way people use to spread fake news, in the same way we can use the social media to tackle the false news and spread awareness regarding this.
One strategy that platforms have used is to provide more information about the news’ source. YouTube has “information panels” that tell users when content was produced by government-funded organizations, and Facebook has a “context” option that provides background information for the sources of articles in its News Feed. This sort of tactic makes intuitive sense because well-established mainstream news sources, though far from perfect, have higher editing and reporting standards than, say, obscure websites that produce fabricated content with no author attribution.
India government has several times stopped the internet connectivity of various areas in India to deal with the spread of fake news and communal hate, but that is not the most suggested method because social media has various uses too, from connecting to ones family to acquiring skills and education. People also interpret the block of internet as a way for the central government to impose rules on them without giving any prior notice or conducting public polls.
5Fake news may seem new in this era, but the platform used is the only new thing about it. Propaganda has been around for centuries, and the internet is only the latest means of communication to be abused to spread lies and misinformation across the world. The author of fake news and fake news sites check verified news sources. They use facts from these verified news website and layer it with misinformation to confuse the reader. When confronted by both the fake news and verified news, people tend to discount both the misinformation and the facts. That’s the power of fake news.
I am not against the use of social media, In fact the power of social media is a voice for many women and men who faced bully and mental harassment, people with good motive are also on social media and at times just because fake news are in abundance, it’s hard to believe the real ones too. Indian government has taken initiative to combat the fake news spread about covid19 across the country through WhatsApp. The WhatsApp chatbot, ‘M6yGov Corona Helpdesk’, can be accessed by sending a text to +91 90131 51515. It is equipped to address various Covid-19 FAQs.

Yashu Mishra
Yashu Mishra

TY-BBA.LLB Student at MIT-WPU School of law

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