• The brutal truth that ‘Fake News’ taught us

    Fake news always existed, but it is more conspicuous today. Why? Well, today(in 2017) Fake News travels at ‘Internet Speed’ and without a snag. People and organizations are fighting a never ending battle for clicks, likes and shares. Everybody wants to be at the top of their game, they want to be seen and heard. With all this clamor there is bound to be chaos. To ad to the tumult are instigators, adding fuel to fire. They intentionally deceive the naive by spreading inaccurate or fabricated news. Lo and behold, all this noise turns into rumors/grapevines which has the ability to give rise to agitation, riots and even devour lives.

    Our beliefs and human biases play a vital role here. We are more susceptible to fake news when it matches our own beliefs. We tend to accept even outrageous content if it is consistent with our convictions. Our biases are another deciding factor that effect our ideology. Here are a few Rumors/Fake News that spread in India this year. What fueled the fire in all these cases here are biases and beliefs which resulted in catastrophic outcomes:

    1. Communal turmoil in Bihar

    A Bangladeshi video of a ghastly brawl that led to a lynching of a man in broad daylight went viral on WhatsApp. People began to brand the video as a Bihar incident. The fact that there were two different sects of people in the video, led to turmoil in an already tense Bihar. People from either sect began to raise their voice. Officers of the law had to intervene to bring the situation under control.

    2. 7 men lynched in Jharkhand

    When miscreants spread a rumor that ‘child abductors are prowling the streets of Jharkhand’s tribal area’, they did not expect it to turn into massacre. What initially spread as a rumor turned into a death-trap. Instigated by rumors and blinded by false beliefs, villagers lynched 7 unsuspecting men under the suspicion of child abduction.

    3. West Bengal riots

    West Bengal riots erupted after a teenager posted an “objectionable” Facebook message which irked the sentiments of a sect of people. As if that was not enough, social networks witnessed an array of messages that continued to provoke the uproar. From movie clips of women being raped to pictures from age old riots, nothing was spared. Even the video that earlier stoke up the Bihar riots, resurrected as a West Bengal scenario.

    4. Otera bibi

    Similar to the Jharkhand lynching is the story of Otera Bibi. Past incidents of traffickers from Bangladesh had the villagers on high alert at all times, when mentally ill Otera Bibi entered an unknown house in the village, suspicion rose that she could be a trafficker. Suspicion led to rumor, which turned into 3 hours of trashing till Otera Bibi finally succumbed to her injuries. But, it did not stop there. Pictures and clips of that horrid event spread across social networks linking it to the West Bengal riots. Some tagged it from a communal point of view, while others used it for political gain.

    This epidemic of Fake News does not even spare the dead, let alone the living. Trolling is now a casual word that has its own dreadful consequences. Main stream media use to be the protective gatekeepers of real news, unfortunately they too have succumbed to the occasional dissemination of fabricated content and rumors. It is time each one of us takes charge to ensure our private social networks steer clear of being aids to fake news.

    So, when you receive that next hot headline in your inbox.. think objectively, scrutinize thoroughly and when in doubt, always question.