Fake news has been around for quite some time now. Earlier, this menace used to exist in forms such as rumors, speculations, misleading reports and gossip. As of now, this menace has taken on a different form altogether! In this essay, we will discuss the impact of fake news and ways to stop it.
In simple terms, fake news is the circulation of incorrect news, reports and facts through different forms of media. The different forms of media include – TV, Radio, Print Media, Internet Media (New Media) and more.
Compared to traditional forms of media (TV, Radio and Print), New Media is worse affected by fake news. This form of media plays a huge and crucial role in the circulation of fake news.
Are TV, Radio and Print Media free from fake news? Absolutely no! Time and again, these forms of media do transmit fake and incorrect news. But these forms of media are not easily accessible (from editing and publishing point of view). Anyone and everyone can’t just publish facts and reports as one pleases! Media firms operating in these areas are well structured organizations. They have rules and regulations regarding the quality of their publications and reports.
Under such circumstances, instances of fake news getting published/transmitted is very less. But it still does happen though. It has been reported that some media firms push out fake news in return of financial compensation.
But new media is a new game altogether! New media has various branches. Some of the notable branches are – Social Media websites, News portals, Blogs, Forums, Instant messaging platforms etc.
Fake news is being shared excessively on these platforms. These forms of media attract fake news like a magnet attracts a piece of iron! Why are these forms of media so receptive towards fake news and its circulation? The answer is – it is very easy to access these forms of media.
Anyone with an internet connection can access instant messaging applications and social media websites. We are living in the digital age now. We have access to high speed internet. We have smartphones with huge processing power!
It is quite easy for a person to scribble fabricated content and spread it on messaging apps and social media websites. And these platforms have what experts call the ripple effect. Once the fabricated content is posted, it gets shared by like-minded people. The wave gathers strength and gets shared even more. Gradually, it reaches a stage where the post has been circulated far and wide!
The sad part is that majority of us fall for such content! Without checking the facts and figures, we just fall for them! This gives an edge to the perpetrator.
Let us talk about online news portals, blogs and forums now. Prominent media firms have strong online presence. They own numerous online entities and news portals.
For the layman, it is fairly easy to create a website or blog these days. Anyone with a computer and internet connection can create a blog for free! With a small amount to spare, he/she may register a domain and start his/her own website, forum or portal.
Internet has changed the face of mass media. Nowadays, we all can broadcast our views and opinion. Take YouTube for instance. We can easily share our view and opinion on this platform. Similarly, we can also express out views and opinion on blogs, websites and forums. It is a good thing though, isn’t it? Yes, having access to such wonderful platforms is quite useful and amazing. But these very platforms can be used to launch fabricated content across the internet.
In this age of viral marketing, any piece of content can go viral online. Pictures, charts, blog posts, videos – content is just a click away from going online and viral. And there’s a huge audience out there, which is ready to consume this information. They don’t just consume this information, but also share and spread it further.
A person with adequate knowledge about the internet can easily create a website. These websites can be masqueraded as news portals. Gradually, they can be used to share fake content online.
What’s the impact of fake news, you may ask. Is it harmless? No, to be honest, it is quite harmful to the society. Fake news is prominently used by political parties to achieve their goals. They employ this tactic (spreading fake news) during election period.
Fake news menace is especially rampant when an election is around the corner. The barrage of fabricated content can be used to malign or praise a candidate. This can often confuse the gullible voters.
According to studies, fake news can influence outcome of an election! Yes, it is a potent weapon that can be used to influence the voting pattern!
Fake news circulated on messaging apps are known to create riots and violence across the world! Riots, mob lynching, destruction of public property – a fabricated post can lead to such devastating and destructive events.
It is not uncommon to see fake news being used to mislead and infuriate a particular religious/political/racial group. This often leads to clashes among these groups.
How to fight this menace, you may ask. The most effective way to curb this menace is by plucking it by its root. If we look closely – social media websites, messaging apps, blogs, forums, online portals – produce most of the fake news that is being circulated right now. They constitute the root source. If we find a way to regulate and monitor these platforms, the problem can be curbed to a large extent.
Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter should work on their fake news algorithm. They must develop a smart system that can identify and ban fabricated content. They must also develop a dedicated team of moderators, who’ll look for such content and curb them immediately.
These platforms should have strict policies and rules regarding sharing of fabricated posts. People found violating these terms (posting or sharing fake news) must be dealt with accordingly.
Webmaster’s associated with portals notorious for fabricated content should be tried by the court under cyber laws. There exists a need to strengthen the existing cyber laws and cover fake news under it.
The second step is to educate people who use the internet. Fabricated content enjoys good reach due to gullible people who share such posts without thinking about it twice! There’s a need to educate people about the menace of fake news. We must team them to identify such content. We must train them to report such content if they ever come across it.
Stopping fake news on its track is a very difficult task. Internet penetration, easy access to devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops etc) and lack of knowledge – these things have made it very easy for perpetrators to create and circulate such content. Strict laws, smart monitoring systems and knowledgeable people – if we work in these aspects, we can curb this menace.