Breaking news: 1

Our National anthem is declared as world’s best National anthem by UN.

Breaking news: 2

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is declared as world’s best Prime Minister by UN.

Breaking news: 3

There is a lot happening in town and next can be your home.

All of you might have come across such messages or videos almost every second day on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Most of the time you forward it to your acquaintances without blinking an eye. But do you even realize that the breaking news mentioned above or what you receive are false and manipulated?  Such unconfirmed and unsubstantial messages spread on social media are called fake content.

But the question arises how do you identify fake news?  Since news is the most trusted piece of information, fake news on social media is spread in news format so that everybody trusts it. Fake news is news, stories or hearses created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Usually, these stories are created to either influence people’s views, to propagate political motives or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers. Fake news stories can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses of a reputed news organization. According to a media research scholar, there are three elements of fake news: mistrust, misinformation, and manipulation.

As far as social media is concerned there are various types of fake or misleading news that we need to be aware of. It includes clicking baits, propaganda, satire or parody, sometimes misleading headings, biased or slanted news.

 Talking about the situation in India; India accounts for nearly one-fourth of WhatsApp’s 1 billion global users. Each day 200 million (20 crores) users wake up every morning to spread various content on it which includes fake ones too. Smartphone use is growing annually by 18.6 percent in urban areas and 15 percent in rural areas, the highest in the worldTheir begins the problem. There is no direct control of government agencies on content generation and when messages are generated in lakhs every day it is next to impossible to monitor it. Some of the government agencies like Rajasthan police, Karnataka police have started social media monitoring cells where they scrutinize messages which could cause social unrest. In fact, there are cyber laws and some other provisions in our law mechanism that punishes the guilty of cybercrime just like how union government recently asked Facebook and WhatsApp to check the flaws in their information dissemination systems. They were asked to create a technical mechanism to stop the spreading of fake news.

Google and Facebook have taken the call of Government and started ‘News Labs for ‘quality journalism’ to eradicate the menace of fake news. Not only this, they have started quality content generation training programs for journalists and social media influencers. It is an agreed initiative for a long-time solution. Some technical changes in their software are also in the pipeline whereas some of them are implemented like WhatsApp has reduced forwarded messages to only five messages at a time and that too with ‘forwarded’ tag.

 Honestly, we all are consuming genuine or fake content (including news) every day due to being in the social media chain. The basic questionarises for a common user is how to identify fake content! Firstly, whenever you see content on your social media platform, check the sources of the story (Is it published by a trustworthy news website?). Secondly don’t just go on a headline, read the full article post, because headlines can be deceptive. Thirdly, is it covered by other news companies or just a single unknown website is spreading it. Most important check the facts as fake content often contain incorrect dates and data. Fourth, sometimes satirical content like standup comedy or memes are used as a means to spread the false content faster, so trust them after proper verification. After scrutinizing, if you find the content fishy then do not forward it and break the chain

P.S. You can do the fact-checking on or also.

Remember, next time you check and then spread. And only spread positivity, not rumors.

Dr. Shirish Kashikar