By : Agraza
Fake news, the word itself has been popularised in the previous 4-5 years. With the start of what we call the Information Age, one of the limitations has been fake news. Fake news is nothing but giving false information in the form of news. These fake news generally come from an anonymous platform and are forwarded by a long chain of intermediate online users making it difficult to track down the original source. Since they are difficult to track down and even if they are tracked they hold no responsibility because these do not come from a verified source.
What is more problematic is that fake news has entered into the political arena as well. These fake news houses are supported by political parties during the time of elections to dig up dirt about their rivals and spread fake news about the opposition.
Fake news can penetrate in our homes and change the nature of voters. This problem is not limited in India to India as seen in the last two elections but this trend is also prevalent in the international arena in countries like Brazil, USA, etc.
Questions were raised when the election for the post of president in America in 2016 elections. US National Intelligence alleged that Russia created fake news to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election and Trump further fuelled public mistrust by calling journalists “the most dishonest human beings on earth”.Where the real news is called as “political witch-hunt “, at the same time discarding the real news.
What can be called “fake news” ?
Lots of things you read online especially in your social media feeds may appear to be true, often is not. Fake news can also be called “False Information”. Fake news thus is news, stories or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers. False information can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses to reputable news organisations.
Types of fake news
Researchers have identified seven types of fake news, an advance that could help better spot misinformation, and create technology that can automatically detect misleading content. The researchers from Pennsylvania State University in the US narrowed down myriad examples of fake news to seven basic categories.
When elections come near many party sponsored/ supported fake news groups get active. Their posts take a political turn which may be in the nature of praising their leader or ridiculing those who are in opposition or are critics of the party leader or party’s ideology. These posts often portray false nationalism or talk about the glorious past of their party, either way they put forward the propaganda of the party and its ideology.
These are the attractive headlines or titles that one gives to a video, article, etc. in order to get views. These headlines are fabricated and may not have any relative information of what follows them. These titles are far from accuracy and truth.
These are the posts which are made for humour and satire. These usually give a heads up to the viewers that they are made just for parody and satire but there are times when they have turned to be notorious for defamation or maligning someone’s image.
Sometimes journalists may publish a story with unreliable information or without checking all of the facts which can mislead audiences.
Tweets can be the best example for this nature of false information.
This happens when a journalist twists the news and facts in a certain way that it becomes biased towards one political party.
It is conducted by people who are not professional journalists but who disseminate information using Web sites, blogs, and social media.
How to identify fake news
In this huge digital world of news reporting and false information, we have to segregate false news from real news. Keeping yourself updated with the latest happening has been a lot more difficult in the world of fake information. To identify when an information provided is a fake news following measures can be taken :
Check the source of the news or information. If the website does not belong to a government entity or does not have a recognisable name, it probably is not an accountable source for information receiving and sharing.
Check the entire article, many fake news stories use sensationalist or shocking headlines to grab attention. Often the headlines of fake new stories are in all caps and use exclamation points.
Check other reputable sources if they are also reporting the same news in a similar nature.
Stories with false information often contain incorrect dates or altered timelines. It is also a good idea to check when the article was published.
Check your own biases. Many times there are our own biases or political opinion that reduces our ability to make a fair judgment.
Satirical websites often inform their viewers about their nature of posts beforehand. One can go to the main page of the website where it talks about what is their intent while posting a news.
WhatsApp forwards play a major role in spreading fake news. Many mob lynching have taken place only because of viral whatsapp forward that has no legitimacy whatsoever. Check the validity and reliability of the post before forwarding it to other people. A small time taken out to google out the news will out the real nature of the WhatsApp forward.
Some of the laws which are in place to fight fake news are as below:
Section 505(1) of Indian Penal Code, 1860: The punishment for making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which may cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public.
Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or fine or both.
Section 66D of Information Technology Act: Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating.
Punishment: imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005: Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic.
Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.
The existing legal provisions do cater to penalizing creation of false content and the malicious distribution thereof, but in the absence of any designated legislation which enables for timely/instant removal of such content once it has been published.
The Ministry of Electronic & Information Technology on 20th March, 2020 issued an advisory to curb false news / misinformation on coronavirus to all the social media platforms (intermediaries u/s 2(1)(w) of Information Technology Act, 2000).