KOCHI: In the wee hours of August 15, Mathew* from Kalamasherry received a WhatsApp voice text in which a man verified that the Mullaperiyar Dam had developed cracks and would burst imminently, flooding untouched areas and submerging cities that were already flooded. The man further substantiated the information was true and that his friend who worked in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office had confirmed the news that the state government was refusing to reveal. Crippled by fear, Mathew forwarded the voice clip to several of his friends and relatives who in turn, did their bit.
Similarly, Gina*, from Edapally received texts that confirmed power shutdown across the entire state. She too, duly forwarded it. Not only were the forwards fake, but they triggered panic and fear among helpless victims. Operators who churn out bogus stories, popularly known as fake news, on social media usually play up the panic in times of natural and man-made calamities. They capitalise on the aspect that social media is the best medium to propagate news faster and create rumours. Intended to create and spread fear mongering, such news and stories feed on the anxieties of the already panic-filled victims who cease to think and verify before forwarding such texts.
“We didn’t have power for days. Hence, no cable connection and no way of receiving authentic information through the news. Some of us have charge in our phones and depend on social media, especially WhatsApp. The messages that we receive is our only log of wood. Our judgement is already clouded. And we are more prone to forwarding such messages,” said Jacob, a victim of the floods says.
“We look out for small bits and pieces of information that would help us remain float.Now that we’ve realised that most messages are fake, we have one request. This isn’t a joke. We do not know whom to rely on for genuine information please do not create fake messages and forward them,” Jacob adds.
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In the wake of such forwards, on August 16, CMO Kerala had tweeted, “Abstain from spreading misinformation on WhatsApp and social media networks. Many rumours & fake news are surfacing. Listen for official announcements. Follow the CMO handles in Twitter & FB; FB pages of Ministers, District Collectors, Kerala Police & Fire force. #KeralaFloods2018.”
Such operators and trolls do not restrict themselves to fake news but also create confusion amongst credible rescue websites such as keralarescue.in, an initiative by the Government of Kerala, Kerala State IT Mission and IEEE Kerala Section, to ensure effective collaboration and communications between authorities, volunteers and public.
The site which has various options such as “Request for Help” and “To Contribute” has seen trolls misusing the ‘Request for Help’ option. A certain troll has even gone to the extent of dishing out his personal details and requesting a mansion, two brandy bottles, porotta and beef fry. It is sad that it needs to be pointed out that this ludicrous trolling and practical jokes of this nature are totally inappropriate at such times of distress in the state. Rescue operations are highly pivotal and not spreading fake news is also a part of it.* Names changed
Follow the hashtags
#DoForKerala and #KeralaFloods and official handles of the Government for the latest updates.
https://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/: Donations can be made online to the CMDRF directly from your account.
www.KeralaRescue.in: Has options that let you know the supplies required for each district.
Kerala SOS: Dial 1077 along with area code. The line directly connects you to the India Navy Rescue Team which enquires about your need for the hour and connects you to the required service immediately.
https://google.org/personfinder/2018-kerala-flooding: Google has launched a partnership with the Government to locate those who are to be rescued.