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Fake news – a present threat

Come election time and fake news portals come up and fill the space with ugly and salacious details about political leaders. Such a piece of news regarding a senior RSS pracharak working in Nagaland was apparently attributed to the NSCN (group not mentioned) was not only circulated but also tweeted by responsible people of a rival political party. The NSCN later clarified that the news was fake. But by then the fake news had spread like wild fire. The website that first put out the story had meanwhile disappeared.  And considering that India is not known to have a robust cyber-security outfit, such fake news could be dangerous. These days pictures are morphed to show someone in a bad light. This is what political rivals use egregiously. We are today a digitised generation with a smart phone. Even youngsters now use mobile phones as their plaything. Everyone has become a consumer of news through the social media mainly through WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter and people quickly form their opinions based on such fake news. By the time the ‘fakeness’ of the news is deconstructed, the images are settled in a person’s mind and the clarification might not reach everyone who had first seen the fake news.  This is how political opponents spread lies about their rivals.

Fake news has a devastating effect on citizens of a democracy who need to make an informed choice about who to vote for and why. In the past citizens had some faith on the traditional media and they formed their opinions through it. Now when it is no longer clear what is false and what is correct people have begin to lose confidence in media as a whole and by extension in the government. Many people now say they don’t watch television. Such is the lack of faith in the media! This mistrust is like poison because it can destroy not just relationships and friendships but the entire society and the nation too. But who will rein in these fake news warriors who operate from “sleeper” cells of a different kind?     

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