BENGALURU: Sitting in front of a computer or holding your mobile in your hand, you wonder whether the ‘breaking news’ forward you received is genuine. Yet, you send it to your friends. And they send it to their friends. And it goes viral. We do this every day. What is the way forward? Definitely, not another forward!These days, almost everything seems fake, even intelligence (artificial)! More so, in the times of vitriolic politics and coronavirus.
Fake news is not a term many people used till recently, but today fake has taken over our lives... and it is infecting the internet. We live in a hashtag world. As well as being a favourite term of US President Donald Trump, ‘fake news’ was also named 2017’s word of the year.What is real? What is fake? What is distortion? It is easy to morph photos or even post deep fakes (manipulated videos). Fake news hit a new high in 2019 what with the general elections, scrapping of Article 370 and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and NCR.
Now, with COVID-19 becoming something real, not something affecting only China anymore, fake news about the pandemic is going more viral than the virus itself. Yes, going viral isn’t just a metaphor anymore. At least the virus seems to be slowing down in China where it all started, but there seems to be no stopping the deadly false information here. False news spreads and mutates like a virus. You find everything on social media -- from medical advice and inflated figures to false narratives about the disease and conspiracy theories. And the constant fake feeds wear you down. Here is a tip, take the medical advice and all else with a dose of scepticism.
Where does fake news come from? And why do we fall for it so easily? Why don’t we check facts? Or do we want to believe it is true because it suits us, our thinking?
A Microsoft survey last year showed that as many as 64 per cent Indians surveyed had encountered fake news as against the global average of 57 per cent. This scourge is a cause for great worry. In an era where we’re juggling inboxes and notifications, it’s easy to fall prey to misinformation.
Who do we blame for fanning the flames of fake news? Humans? Bots? Trolls? Or people who have nothing better to do? The social media being what it is, the news is swallowed in one gulp and spitted out on various platforms with friends and foes forwarding it to friends and foes. And everyone clicking a like or not depending on their ideologies or beliefs. What we don’t realise is that when we share our thoughts, there are companies waiting to harvest the data.
Traditional news gathering and publishing, which followed a certain code of ethics, now has to compete with the internet. Because, the way we publish news has changed, with very little regulation. The penetration on social media platforms, especially, is faster, broader and deeper. But now some biggies like Facebook and Twitter are enforcing certain regulations.
Is the war against fake news genuine? ‘Bot’ of course. However, fake news is leading to wars between friends and between friendly communities. Who will stop this pandemic sweeping the social platforms? Perhaps, internet should be placed in quarantine! Or using the buzzword, internet should be under lockdown!
I heard from one of my relatives that clapping during Janta curfew was to create a vibration to kill off the virus. They even had a WhatsApp forward as “proof”! I burst out laughing, but I did Google it, just to make sure, and what do you know? It was fake.
-Kushala Shanubhog, student
I came across this WhatsApp message which said if you are out of sanitiser, use a bowl of salt. Rub it on your hands to kill the Covid-19 virus. For better results, place your hand above the flame on a stove. I think this is absurd because there’s no evidence of salt killing viruses, and as for the stoves, it may cause major burns rather than disinfecting. All that comes out of these messages is panic and stupidity. – Arham Javed, graphic designer