Our digital social media engagement is the biggest factor behind the success of fake news stories.
The spread of fake news has increased due to the change in the way we consume and produce information, with social media being a key factor. As a result, each one of us is called upon to check the source of every piece of information we receive, to understand the mission of the specific media and its goals, to analyze beyond what we read, to check the identity of the news editor, and to compare different sources of news before drawing any conclusions.
According to surveys, 6 out of 10 internet users republish a story after reading only the title but not its content. The way digital information being spread is worsening the problem. Mostly, the people rely on the origin of fake news messages due to the number of comments on a Facebook post, the kinds of images on the posts, or the sender, as the people assume WhatsApp messages from family and friends could be trusted and sent on without checking.
Most of the fake stories we hear revolve around politics, social issues and the celebrities, but we should know the impact that fake news stories have had on society in general.
It may be fun to forward messages for some, but spreading fake news is hazardous and has very harmful effects on society.
Impacts of fake news
If a speaker isn’t careful and specific about what they do or don’t know, they may become part of the “Fake News” problem. However real the claim appears to be, the hoax news is a threat to democracy and undermines confidence in the media in general.
Sharing thoughtless false rumors on WhatsApp leads to a wave of violence in society, with people forwarding on fake messages, for example, about child abductors to friends and family out of a sense of responsibility to protect the loved ones and communities.
As the fake news sites are increasing, the credibility of media organizations and public trust in journalism is in danger. Fake scandals often seem more believable than the truth and have led to racism, harassment, killings, intimidation and damage to reputation.
With the increasing use of social media making it ever easier to send the information to millions of people with a single click, there has been an increase in the prevalence of false as well as real news.
Fake news on politics remain unclear, the partisan nature of fake news may increase political divisions and lead to further polarization in the country. Fake news increases frictions between political parties and increases already high levels of polarization, which makes compromises in government more difficult.
Ways to curb it
Social media platforms have begun to fuel their efforts to reduce forge content, but it is impossible to completely remove fake news from the internet. However, a few simple ways can aid attentive social media users in understanding the difference between real and fake news.
An easier method to avoid being fooled by fake news is to be curious and maintain an open mind. We should confirm the news through various sources. The sources to get the original news are also not limited in these present times of internet and apps.
Instead of just forwarding messages blindly, we should think over the consequences of the doing so. It might seem fun to some to forward the number of messages to different people, but people may take the news differently. Some might like to “reforward” while some sensitive people might react over the news. By making an effort to understand different perspectives, you can avoid falling prey to fake news.
India has recently witnessed several shocking incidents of lynching caused by the spread of rumors over WhatsApp. Very recently, the Indian government has issued stern warnings to the Facebook- owned messaging service which has limited the number of times a message can be forwarded in the country. It is one appreciative step by a social media platform to curb viral misinformation.
In another step, awareness can be created by advertising, promoting real news over fake news through the mass media like TV, internet etc. This will make people conscious of what they reading or watching- Fake news or reality.
Steering through the turbulence of the “Fake News” era is a real challenge for us, but with caution, courage, and creativity, we can surely correct the outlook of the society. This way we can build safe and secure society as things gained through unjust fraud are never secure.
Author Bio : Riddhi Nath, from Ahmedabad, a participant and Third Prize Winner (above 18 years old Category), of Monthly International Essay Competition , January 2019 organized by #Monomousumi