09 It can’t be the first of April every day! - Fr. Nigel Barrett

posted May 9, 2018, 11:23 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 9, 2018, 11:23 AM ]

(Fake News and How to Spot It)

"Oh, my gosh! Is this really true?"
"This is unbelievable!"
"Did he (or she) really say this?"

These thoughts may have crossed your mind when reading a certain article or post, or on coming across certain pictures or while watching videos on social media platforms, or even at times, on mainline news portals. We are shocked, disturbed and confused. We really don't know what to believe! Could it be real? Or could it be fake?

Fake news has been in existence for a very long time, and has always been clothed with the garment of pseudo-authenticity with an underlying agenda. With the advent of the digital age and social media, fake news has taken on a life of its own, as it spreads even more rapidly. This is why the ability to expose a fake is so very essential today.

So, what is 'Fake News'? Fake news has rapidly become a catch-all term to discredit all kinds of stories. It can be defined as those news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources or quotes. Sometimes, these stories may be propaganda that is intentionally designed to mislead the reader, or may be designed as "click bait" written for economic incentives (the writer profits from the number of people who click on the story). In recent years, fake news stories have proliferated via social media, in part because they are so easily and quickly shared online, and because, somewhere along the line, it has been forwarded by someone you know and trust.

How, then, do we decipher what is true and what is false, and arrest the spread of fake news?

First, let us situate ourselves: India, as a country, has participated and contributed to the digital revolution in a very big way. More and more people are connected via their smartphones, and the digital revolution has swept through both urban and rural areas – the length and breadth of our country. Standing at the crossroads as we face the future, we seem to be leaving democracy behind. It would be pertinent to list here the four pillars of the democratic state: the Judiciary, Executive, Legislature and Media, where media ensures transparency in the working of the first three.

Media has the power to make us aware of various social, political and economic activities around us. It is expected to be the mirror which shows us the bare truth and harsh realities of life. Unfortunately, media seems to have abandoned this role.