Fake news affects voting behaviour in a big way: O.P. Rawat

Outgoing Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat says the panel has created a constituency for the EVMs, with elections in Tripura and other States setting at rest doubts.

Right now the only mechanism is Section 126 and EC instructions on paid news. We have to bring in a robust mechanism for conduct on social media platforms.

Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.

The main driving force behind fake news remains:

Getting easy viewership through sensational news-e.g. dubbing foreign prisoners as spies or terrorists without any proof

Directed towards a particular organization or person with an intention to either glorify it or to bring malice.eg. a news channel was established to defend the accused in Jessica Lal murder case.

Dangers of fake news:

Swaying or polarising public opinion. Example Recent American election, UP elections where certain facts are quoted out of context/partially. Significant impact on the nature of polity.

Promoting religious ideologies. Glorifying one religion while despising others Ex. Right wing violence meted out by Gau rakshaks leads to religious polarisation and communal unrests.

Sensationalising crimes by blowing them out of proportion. Misleads people rather than making them aware. Instils irrational fears.

Fake news has also been used to dupe gullible people financially. The reach of news has given chit fund schemes an altogether new arena as well as has introduced the concept of online fraud through spam mails.

It hampers spirit of common brotherhood and raises intolerance. Eg. 2012 mass exodus of North-Eastern people from Bangalore on false online threats.

Over the time it shapes the thinking of society at large. Portrayal of India as an unsafe destination for women by international media has created a false image of a nation.

What is needed?

·         Independent, trusted and effective press regulation.

·         Mainstream media must use social media tools intensively in order to defend the truth, present the correct information and balance opinions.

·         Curb media ownership. We need an open debate on the impact of media concentration on our democracy and wider culture. There should be clear limits on media ownership so that powerful proprietors with vested interests are not allowed to dominate the news agenda.

·         Define fake news legally. Heavy punitive measures for whosoever violates the said definition.

·         There should be grievance redressal mechanisms and arbitration spaces to resolve issues.

·         Digital media literacy among people to increase scrutiny and feedbacks of the content.

·         Technical solutions that assess the credibility of information circulating online are also needed.

What is it?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has devised a new campaign that is aimed at fighting back against disinformation and fake news. It lays a major focus on global media literacy, including workshops and debates in countries like India.

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