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What’s Trending? Fake News!

Develop awareness as to which websites are known for spreading “fake news”

Photo Credit : photo credit: vrworld via vrworld.com

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Time and again, we come across false stories doing rounds in social media pertaining to religion and political parties. With an increasing dependence on social media by the masses, ‘fake news’ is higher in circulation than ever before. It is about different party candidates; party policies; ruling government and the opposition.

A survey conducted in the US after Donald Trump’s win reported, “The most popular fake news was more widely circulated and read on social media than the genuine news items. People genuinely believed in fake news on social media and they were widely discussed. Trump would not have been elected President if it were not for the influence of fake news on social media, which was both widely shared and heavily tilted in favour of Trump.”

Coming back to the Indian political scenario, fake news has found its way in burgeoning social media mainly comprising Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Social media is well-suited for fake news dissemination as there are no entry barriers and cost of producing content for fake news is relatively small. Fake news articles originate on several types of websites and parody accounts on Facebook and Twitter fed in by different political parties.

Much of India’s false news is spread through WhatsApp. Recently, Haryana and Punjab had to curtail Internet services due to fear of riots at the time of the hearing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim. One rumour on social media that caused havoc was about salt shortages which prompted a rush to buy salt in grocery stores.  

After a recent political rally held in Patna, titled ‘BJP Baghao, Desh Bachao,’ which saw many leaders mark their presence, a top leader from Bihar posted a picture on Twitter that showed a much larger gathering than the one posted by the ANI, at the same point.  The media was quick to spot the difference and the leader was pulled up for photoshopping the image to look like more people attended the rally.

In another move attacking the Central government on its demonetisation move, a senior political leader from Delhi government retweeted an image of a man in Santna, Madhya Pradesh, who had allegedly hung himself in a bank because he could not withdraw money. The leader had written in Hindi, “Modiji, look at this. Have mercy on the public of this country. What enmity do you have with the people of this country?” The picture, however, turned out be an older one taken when a man, who was being chased by the police, hung himself in a bank. Such posts by people in top political positions can have severe influence on the masses.

The best way to counter fake news on social media is social media itself.  People should develop awareness as to which websites and news outlets are known for spreading “fake news” and confirm the veracity of the information before sharing it with their peers.

Curtailing fake news is essential as it could lead to huge swings in public opinions. It can be the difference between being the President of a country and being an also-ran.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 14 October 2017 religion donald trump politics

Anu Sehgal

The author is a digital consultant specialising in image management and brand promotion, and a former journalist

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