Fake news in India.
By Nihar Lalas
Fake news have been a very prominent factor in misleading the information and people of a country. India being a religious country believing in beliefs and values more, makes it vulnerable for fake news trap easily. People in India are connected with each other through the medium of social networking sites which becomes an easy platform for fake news to travel.
People usually do not check the correct source of information and instead of verifying it from a reliable source they tend to share it with their close ones.
Most of the fake news follows through the medium of videos through one phone to another. There are few which came through audio clips, text messages and in the form of images.
According to the study, 35 per cent of false and misleading claims were made through videos and April saw a spike in clips targeting Muslim vendors for allegedly spitting on food items to spread the corona virus pandemic. Moreover, 29. 4 per cent of fake news, which included fake diagnosis and treatment or doctored quotes by celebrities along with their pictures, was shared through text messages. These spiked in March as false notifications and lockdown guidelines became viral.
Manipulation by misinformation
Basically there are two kinds of misinformation or fake news which caught the eyes of people which were related to culture and government. This pattern emerged with a visible increase in stories around Muslims and COVID-19 as well as stories around police brutality. By the end of March 2020, the number of fake stories increased from 15 in the week beginning March 16 to 33 in the week beginning March 30, with the Tablighi Jamaat event at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi being highlighted as a vector of novel corona virus.
A large number of fact-checks on the pandemic were on communal rumours, most of which were false allegations against Muslims of purposefully spreading the virus. These messages appeared in April, after several members of the Tablighi Jamaat tested positive for the virus. These fake news and wrong information sometimes leads to conflicts and riots as well.
In contrast, the number of fake stories around casualty fear evoking messages related to deaths, suicides and suffering of people in the pandemic or graphic imagery–and COVID-19 cure peaked and fell from 18 in number to 12 during the same period, the study found.
“Post the Tablighi Jamaat incident, we saw a change in the tone of fake news- focussing on a particular community that was being targeted as the ‘super spreader’,” said Jency Jacob, editor of Boom News, a Mumbai-based initiative that busts fake news.
“When it comes to communal posts, only text does not create the sort of required emotional connect with the viewer. And, lay people cannot really figure out whether a video clip is new or old. In contrast, posts about cures, say drinking lemon water, don’t really need an image for me to believe it.”
In this pandemic, there are number of fake news which have been witnessed such as Drinking ginger water in the morning boosts your immunity and prevents corona virus, also that corona virus cannot sustain in high temperature etc. These news have been verified by scientists and researchers to be fake.
High on emotions, low on facts
India is entering a phase in misinformation which is intended to be affective around identity and emotion rather than instrumental facts that can be scientifically verified. Thus, from presenting fake cures or fake images of pain–which, over time, get debunked or appear suspicious to viewers–the misinformation has moved to cultural elements that are harder to verify.
How the universe of misinformation works?
Different modes of media are used to relay different kinds of misinformation, shows the study. For example, misinformation in the ‘casualty’ category relies heavily on visual content, such as video clips, since the goal is to evoke a physical reaction, often fear or disgust. On the other hand, tweets on the so-called cures and misleading statistics use a lot of text because the aim is to mislead by offering specifics.
Mainstream media’s complicity
Several mainstream media houses, including newspapers and news channels have put out widely circulated misinformation. Though the study could not cite clear reasons as to why mainstream media was sharing misinformation, it hinted that some may simply be out of poor editorial standards in a highly competitive media ecosystem. “One thing that remains clear, however, is that misinformation travels fast.”
By : Nihar Lalas