Social media – where fake news spreads like wildfire
Prime Minister Modi himself spreads fake news frequently, no doubt his government spent more than ₹4300 Crores on the advertisements alone.
Recently, the Journal Natural Hazards published a study conducted by a team of academics at the University of Buffalo, USA, which concludes that false information spreads faster on social media during disasters and rarely people bother to correct the information.
The team studied 20,000 tweets during the time of Hurricane Sandy and also during the Boston Marathon bombing. During the annual Boston Marathon in USA on April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart near the finish line of the race, killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs.
The state of New York was severely affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, particularly New York City, its suburbs, and the Long Island. At least 53 people died in New York as a result of the storm. Thousands of homes and an estimated 250,000 vehicles were destroyed during the storm. The study team found that as many as 86 to 91% of users on Twitter were spreading misinformation during these disasters, one was man-made and the other was natural.
As if it was not enough, after knowing the truth less than 20 percent users tried to put correct information and less than 10% users deleted the wrong information. A similar study was published two months ago, where a MIT study was referred. It concluded that any wrong information has 70% more likelihood to be retweeted.
On 7th May, first lady of US, Melania Trump, initiated her signature initiative for on children’s health with the name, Be Best. The social science research group was surprised by this initiative as President never liked any project on social science and climate change. Be Best has several objectives for welfare of children, including learning positive ways to use social media.
As a background material, a study published in 2017 by social psychologist, Jean Twenge of the San Diego State University in California was included, which concludes that teenagers mental health deteriorates with prolonged use of cellphones, social media and computer games. Learning positive ways to use social media includes learning about fake or anti-social news on social media, and what can be done to counteract it.
On April 2, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) woke up to the “increasing instances of fake news in electronic and print media”in the country, and released a circular announcing amendments to guidelines that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) follows while granting accreditation to journalists. In less than a day’s time, the circular was withdrawn at the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Social media, since its inception, has been viewed as beneficial to society. In fact, it has become a part of new technology to gather social information on health, education and employment etc. in several countries. It is being used for diverse fields like agriculture, climate change and also human rights.
During the April, 2018, Skoll World Forum discussed about role of technology and also on potential of social media. The US based Skoll World Forum seeks to accelerate entrepreneurial approaches and solutions to the world’s most pressing problems by uniting social entrepreneurs with essential partners in a collaborative pursuit of learning, leverage, and large-scale social change. Speakers were concerned about decline in trust on media organisations in this era of volumes of information at the screen. Many speakers focused on how advertisements and propaganda differ from news on social media.
Kelly Born, Programme Officer at Medison Initiative told the gathering that mass data collection and spread through social media enables low-cost psychological micro-targeting, bots that artificially amplify rubbish conversations and political campaign ads that reach tiny group of population – and ultimately national discussion and focus is lost.
We are experiencing it in our country too– how government or some party propaganda prepares escape route for national discussion on social issues. It is a common sense that truth does not require any sort of advertisement at all. The Prime Minister himself spreads fake news frequently, no doubt his government spent more than ₹4300 Crores on the advertisements alone.
Recently, PMO wrote a letter to all the ministries regarding compilation of actual data on employment provided by the ministry. It may be a good move, but also shows that till date there is no data on employment with PMO. On the other hand, PM Modi and Amit Shah, both quote varied data on employment at various forums, advertisements and Twitter. Are these data not fake?
On April 2, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) woke up to the “increasing instances of fake news in electronic and print media” in the country, and released a circular announcing amendments to guidelines that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) follows while granting accreditation to journalists.
In less than a day’s time, the circular was withdrawn at the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Diplomat wrote on the occasion, “for a government that has its own legacy of fake news, the circular fired on all the wrong cylinders”. Fake news is, in effect, the offspring of an unholy marriage between propaganda and advertising money. Most damage is done by people, fake social media profiles, polarizing websites and pages which spread fake news intentionally for garnering votes and spreading hate.
An editor of the news website Postcard News was recently arrested in the south Indian city of Bengaluru for promoting hatred between religious groups by carrying the picture of a monk injured in an accident, and passing it off as the result of an attack by a Muslim youth. The editor, interestingly, is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, even though Postcard News has been repeatedly called out as a hoax-generating portal, frequently used by BJP ministers and supporters to strike up communal tensions.
Fake news is more likely to stem from a Photoshop artist; a politician who goes into the hinterlands and makes speeches without fact-checking them; and the intermingling of a public relations group, market strategists, and often a dire step toward damage control (or damage creation). Critics of the government thus often find themselves becoming targets for trolls, fake news, and misguided social media outrage.