Understanding and not to disseminate Fake news and False News


Taking recourse to numerous global studies, there should be the oft-repeated concepts of post-truth, fake news, false news to combat the menace

Post-truth represents a situation when facts take the backseat and emotional appeals and personal beliefs start shaping public opinion. Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics and post-reality politics) is defined as a political culture in which debate is framed largely by emotional appeals, and by the repeated assertion of talking points ignoring factual rebuttals. Post-truth differs from the traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by relegating truth to be a concern of secondary importance. In 2016, ‘post-truth’ was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year subject to the Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election.

In 2015, media and politics scholar Jayson Harsin coined the term ‘regime of post-truth’ covering many aspects of post-truth politics. He argues that a convergent set of developments have created the conditions of post-truth society: the political communication informed by cognitive science, which aims at managing perceptions and beliefs of segmented populations through techniques like micro-targeting which includes rumours and falsehoods; the fragmentation of modern and more centralised media; the attention economy marked by information overload, user-generated content and fewer trusted authorities to distinguish between truth and lies; the algorithms which govern what appears in social media and search engine rankings, based on what users want and not on what is factual; and news media which have been marred by plagiarism, hoaxes, propaganda and changing news values.

With regards to fake and false news, there is a conceptual error here. When we cite fake news, it is presumed that there is an original piece of news which is being faked. However, it is largely about false news, news that does not exist or perhaps exist in a totally different form.

The digital culture allows anybody with a computer and access to the internet to post their opinions online which may become legitimised through echo-chambers. Content may be judged based on how many views a post gets, creating an atmosphere based on click bait that appeals to emotion. Content, false or post-truths, which gets more views is continually filtered around different internet circles, regardless of its legitimacy. The internet allows people to choose where they get their information, allowing them to reinforce their own opinions.

In the Modi-Shah-Adityanath era of post-truth politics in India, cattle traders are lynched, every Hindu-Muslim marriage is love jihad, becoming a Hindu is ghar wapsi, anyone questioning the efficacy of an army act is considered an anti-national, slogans of freedom from poverty are considered to be secession calls and the likes, Priyanka Chopra meeting Rohingyas as a humanitarian cause is vilified and she shown in burqa, Sushma Swaraj taking a perfectly right step on the issue of an inter-faith couple’s passport issue is viciously attacked online.

Tackling False News and Post-truth Journalism:

Globally, in the Western world, rumour cascades are usually investigated through six independent fact-checking organisations (snopes.com, politifact.com, factcheck.org, truthorfiction.com, hoax-slayer.com, and urbanlegends.about.com) by parsing the title, body, and verdict (true, false, or mixed) of each rumour and investigations are reported on their websites.

Both technology companies and governments have started to make efforts to tackle the challenge of ‘post-truth politics’. In an article for the journal Global Policy, Prof. Nayef Al-Rodhan suggested four particular responses:

  1. Improve the technological tools for fact checking.
  2. Greater involvement and visibility for scientists and the scientific community.
  3. Stronger government action. The most important challenge here is to ensure that such state-led efforts are not used as a tool for censorship.
  4. Securitising fake news.

Psychological solutions include the so-called fake news ‘vaccine’.

India, one of the biggest internet markets in the world, has its share of troubles with fake news, but Indian society has also given birth to important initiatives to tackle the issue. For instance, a news portal called The Quint has started a section called Webquf that debunks fake news. Some of the leading grassroots citizens-driven anti false-news initiatives as of today are: (1) Boom FactCheck (BFC), established by Govindraj Ethiraj; (2) Social Media Hoax Slayer (SMHS), started and run by Pankaj Jain; (3) Pratik Sinha’s Altnews.com and (4) check4spam.com initiated by Shammas Oliyath and Bal Krishn Birla.

As news of two Indian soldiers allegedly beheaded by Pakistan broke, several thousand WhatsApp groups came alive. A video purportedly showing the beheading, one by a chainsaw and another knifed in the throat while singing Vande Mataram, went viral. A week later, it turned out that the video was shot in 2011 and the men were Spanish drug dealers. It was exposed by Mumbai-based businessman Pankaj Jain who runs the SM Hoax Slayer.

Google Initiative to train 2000 Indian journalists to fight false and fake news:

Google News Initiative Training Network in India in partnership with BoomLive, DataLeads, and Internews.

Fight against misinformation by providing them with in-depth and hands-on verification training. The training will be imparted to 8,000 journalists across English and six other Indian languages over the coming year

Select 200 journalists from cities across India, who will hone their skills in verification and training during five-day “train-the-trainer” boot camps.

They will be trained in person by global verification experts and top Indian fact-checkers, including First Draft, Storyful, AltNews, BoomLive, Factchecker.in, and DataLeads

The network of certified trainers will train more journalists in and around their region at two-day, one-day and half-day workshops organised by the network.

(By Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury, Views expressed are personal)

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