Traditional media consists of mostly nameless and faceless people deciding what does and does not get printed and broadcasted. In this new era of Digital Revolution where internet and variety of social media, creation, and consumption of news and information in our society is changing. The rapid transformation of traditional print media into online portals has become a new trend. Increasing use of mobile devices and easy Wi-Fi access to 3G/4G networks, the Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter have turned into powerful platforms for providing news and entertainment. On one hand, the online social media has democratized the means of news production and dissemination, but on the other hand, it has become a breeding ground for false and fake news.
What is Fake News?
Fake news refers to misinformation, disinformation or misinformation which is spread through word of mouth and traditional media and more recently through digital forms of communication such as edited videos, memes, unverified advertisements and social media propagated rumours. Fake news has been around as long as human civilisation, but it has been turbo-charged by digital technology and the transformation of the global media landscape.
Lots of things you read online especially in your social media feeds may appear to be true, often is not. False information is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Usually, these stories are created to influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers. False information can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses to reputable news organisations.
Impact of fake News on Society
One of the main concerns of fake news stories is that they can polarise society, particularly during political events. Fake news spread through social media has become a serious problem, with the potential of it resulting in mob violence or even riots. Spread of fake news has been a grave problem in India, in terms of inciting public unrest leading to social tension in the events of even a small incident involving two or more communities. Instances have taken place where a minor argument led to major clashes, thanks to the news made “viral” among the WhatsApp users.
Fake news stories can not only polarise different groups within a nation but also affect international relations. At the same time, fake news campaigns can be effectively used to spread unrest in rival countries. Several such campaigns are uncovered by the government in India where thousands of social media handles from Pakistan were part of actively spreading fake and false propaganda on issues like CAA and Kashmir. Misinformation and disinformation related to Kashmir is widely prevalent. There have been multiple instances of pictures from the Syrian and the Iraqi civil wars being passed off as from the Kashmir conflict with the intention of fuelling unrest and backing insurgencies.
Fake scandals often seem more believable than the truth and have led to racism, harassment, intimidation and damage to reputation. This has also led to destruction of trust in media. Fake news affects free speech and informed choices of the subjects of the country, leading to the hijacking of democracy.
Combating fake news is a growing narrative of the technology platforms like Facebook, Google, the news media, the government and an informed citizenry. Ultimately, we must find a way to control the production of fake news and increase quality outputs to maintain the functioning of a society built on free choice.