• 5 areas of Fake News beyond Politics

    Are all forms of Fake news a gimmick contrived by political opportunists to overthrow adversaries or twist elections?

    Fake News and politics are no strangers to each other. An ironic twist of fate at the last US elections outcome made ‘Fake News’ the Word of the Year 2017. Well, we should have seen that coming considering 2016’s Word of the year was ‘Post Truth’. So, if not for political ambition what are the alternative motives for people to trump up(Yes! It is a phrasal verb)… trump up Fake News?

    “Fake news is about more than just elections: it can topple banks, sink firms, and ruin lives” Abhishek Parajuli, Author

    Even people not in politics would use propaganda, hoaxes and disinformation as methods to achieve either a commercial or a contentious goal. For a commercially inclined example, some sites depend on their reader’s attention for income. Thus, it is imperative for them to constantly cook up solutions and keep their audience hooked. For the contentiously inclined lot, it is more about a person/group, thing or topic that is the target of their wrath. An example could be the spread of the infamous message ‘Pepsi/Frooti contaminated with HIV infected blood’, which could possibly be the handiwork of competitors to malign the brand, or some drawing traffic to their sites embedded with Google Ads.

    Unfortunately, politically inclined or not, misinformation affects the masses who fall prey to such misconduct and become ‘collateral damage’. Here we highlight 5 instances which prove Fake News was not merely a political gimmick but a mechanism of deception used for ulterior motives.

    1. Fake News = Easy Money

    A conspicuous method of earning easy money is through fabricated sites that offer lucrative job opportunities or products and services. The Imaxauto.in mobile app in UP selling fake insurance policies to thousands is a perfect example. Fake sites(like NDLRI.com and WCDO.org.in) lure individuals to pay a handsome fee for unbelievable job offers. Once they do so, the site and their money both instantly disappear. Ad revenue is another method, a Fake News site LibertyWriters.com made up to $40,000 per month in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

    2. Fake News = Deception

    When NSE brokers received a forged circular claiming the extension of trading hours so that Indian investors align with foreign markets, they assumed it to be true. They considered: a) the authentic and official look the circular bore and b) the ambiguity of open discussions by officials to extend trading hours. Although the culprit behind this con job is still a mystery his intent was clearly to paralyze a smooth-running system. Similar cases of hysteria cropped up when WhatsApp messages spread rumors about RBI approving 5-day work week for banks or the infamous ban of the 10 coin.

    3. Fake News = Frenzy

    Fear causes frenzy, which leads to confusion causing a calamitous situation. Resurrection of old messages, images & videos during times of calamities and mishaps has become a common occurrence. Chances are in Mumbai during the rains you will see pictures of flooded roads and railway lines from the 2005 deluge resurrect year after year. A similar situation occurred with regards to the Chakala Metro bridge mishap during the August 2017 Mumbai floods. The actual event in fact had occurred in 2012. Architectural miscreants use credible old news, twist and turn it into a current episode, thereby creating a frenzy and lawless situation.

    4. Fake News = Well-being?

    ‘Share if you CARE’ – Messages with these lines are bound to awaken the protective and possessive side in you. Even though you may not know the complete truth you decide to share it, because ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’. But are we cognizant of the fact that concocted statements like, ‘prolonged use of sanitary napkins can kill you’ tend to spread sheer shock and panic. ‘Sharing’ and ‘likes’ is a profitable business on Facebook, it enables page owners to onsell their popular pages to budding businesses.  Read more about it here.

    Did you know: Facebook recently admitted that up to 270 million accounts on the social network are illegitimate.(More here)

    5. Fake News = Fear

    The deliberate trafficking of fake news often spreads anxiety, panic and intense fear along its path. Spine chilling news about ‘158 Indian soldiers killed by a Chinese rocket’ or ‘Container filled with deceased children found’ even though are callously fabricated lies, it still leaves a sense of uncertainty and insecurity in our surrounding. The Fake News strategy by Pakistan on India is the perfect example of how hatred and fear is instilled in small shots into the mind of the consumer of their bogus stories.

    “Lies sound like facts to those who’ve been conditioned to mis-recognize the truth.” ― DaShanne Stokes

    Fake news is a business. Stories with absurd headlines are perfect for click bait and the absurdity of the content is directly proportional to the bait it gathers. Like Fakopedia, numerous crusaders of the truth work tirelessly to expose fiction from facts, but truth be told the heavy hand of politics on some of these players does sometime play a role in a biased end result. Whether used for political, prejudiced or monetary gains the nature of Fake News is to prey on the susceptible and gain from their gullibility.

    The underlying question is: Are we that gullible?