Internet and social media has revolutionized the whole world in the last one and half decades. Communication was never so user-friendly and convenient since inception of internet. Social media is extremely popular among youths. It can provide them an accessible and powerful tool for building their self-confidence and showcase their skills. But, in our country social media is a powerful tool for spreading destructed facts, biased figures and fake news. The problem is getting bigger with increase in social media usage and internet availability.
In the last four years, social media usage in the country has gone up by 150% with an 83% increase in smartphone ownership. For a complete internet naïve person with no concept of fake news, sudden exposure of internet makes them to believe everything they receive through social media. The culprits use the social media as their propaganda machine to move the masses and make them believe what they spread. Facebook pages and groups, WhatsApp groups can spread fake news in just few hours.
If you remember in May 2017, the lynching of seven people in two incidents in Seraikela-Kharswan and East Singhbhum district on rumors of being child kidnappers, was caused by fake news articles spread on various social media platforms. Two persons were arrested who spread the news of child kidnappers and created an environment of fear in the region. Investigations of recent incidents of mob lynchings has proved major role of social media platforms to build an environment of hatred among people.
WhatsApp and Fake News
In India, the largest contributor in spreading fake news is, WhatsApp. WhatsApp has the largest user based in country and used by all sections of people. Its user-friendliness is the chief feature why people favour it over any application or platform for online communication. Currently, WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India But with the rise in incidents of violence and lynching, the social media platform has received a lot of criticism. On the month of August this year, WhatsApp has limited number of forwards to five for an Indian user. They also started labeling forwarded messages as “forwarded”. On 4th December 2018, WhatsApp has released its first ever Television commercial in India and it’s about awareness on fake news. The 60-second commercials, named “Share joy, not rumors,” started airing in 10 local languages across TV, Facebook, and YouTube. This move of WhatsApp shows us the how severe the problem is and why we must act now.
How to prevent:
- Just delete forwarded messages claiming facts that are unverified or from unreliable sources.
- To be sure about some facts, please do a Google search and look for related news articles from reliable news houses.
- Visit fact checking website like altnews.in, www.boomlive.in, www.factchecker.in for authenticity of any fact or claim.
- Always be sure of authenticity of any fact before forwarding to anyone. Never share it with someone unless you are sure of its actuality.
- Avoid social media pages or handles who are notorious for spreading fake news across internet.