Decoding Fake News For Young Adults

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K Sanjay Kumar Gurudin, an IPS officer of the 2005 batch, Kerala cadre. a socially conscious cop, well-known cyber expert, and an author of the must read book ‘Is Your Child Safe?’ He has had an outstanding and illustrious career as Senior Superintendent of Police in Kerala. He is a Chevening Cybersecurity alumni, United Kingdom

Aviral video on child safety made by a promotional agency in Pakistan triggered violence in various part of India. The video made and edited to trigger panic about “child lifters” on the prowl, spread on social media platforms and WhatsApp like wildfire. Videos of alleged child abduction along with fake information spiralling on social media have led to the murder of more than 25 people in mob lynching incidents reported across India in the past two months.”

Millions of Internet and social networking site users are falling for fake news and sometimes with deadly consequences. At the end of December 2017, India had 481 million internet users, making India the second largest country of internet user in the world, still growing at the rate of 11.34%. Many of these users have been mobile-first users of the internet, so are not aware of the fake messages. They tend to think the messages they get are genuine and this makes them highly vulnerable.

False news has pervaded all spheres of life, political and social.It has become a part of everyday life, exacerbating weather crises, increasing hate violence between castes and religions, political issues and even affecting matters of public health. This problem is not because of innocents forwarding the messages but is the handiwork of highly-organised groups having vested interests. Provocative contents, inaccurate information, doctored videos and pictures are intentionally fed on social media and highly sophisticated tools and networks are used to make the content viral.

What is Fake News: –

It is completely false, containing improper photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform. Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive or old photographs shared as new, for the purpose of satire or to fool or harass people.

Tackling the fake news

The Indian legal system has limited options to tackle this menace but those are focused only on hate speeches and defamation cases. Section 153 and 295 IPC can be invoked against someone creating or spreading fake news which can be termed as hate speech. Section 500 IPC provides punishment for criminal defamation. The legal mechanism does not have direct provisions governing rumours on social and electronic media.

The government has taken up the matter with Internet giants to come up with solutions to filter fake news, who in turn are experimenting with Artificial intelligence (AI) to crosscheck news stories against a dynamic database of articles that may help to identify the legitimacy of news.AI can run fact-checkers with high speed but will surely fall short to actually address this problem. Legal framework or AI system, hence, is not an absolute solution but due diligence on part of the user is highly essential. The individual should be intelligent enough to distinguish between trusted news and those which are fake.

Few tips to identify fake news: –

Step 1: – Take out a moment to evaluate the news, before you share

  • Control your forwarding impulse: Does the story have an eye-catching headline that tempts you to share or forward it even before you read it? Do not simplyshare, retweet or forward the message by the disclaimer “forwarded as received” but read and understand the content.
  • Confirm that content is current: Check the newsstory’s date as older articles might include outdated information.
  • Figure out the purpose of the news.: – Question yourself why the writer has created the news article. What is the purpose, and who benefits from it being spread? A credible story should report facts without trying to promote some ulterior motive
  • Think how the story makes you feel: Check your own biases and emotional reaction. If the story is like a preaching or fills you with rage or makes you feel disturbed about your beliefs, it might not be a balanced source of information.

Step 2: – Examining the source of the news:

  • Cross-check by reverse image search: When you right click an image, you’ll see an option to search Google for the image. When you search for the image, you’ll be able to see other websites that have featured it.
  • Look for strange URLs: A suspicious news website might have an unusual URL that tries to mimic a legitimate news source, such as abc.com.co instead of abc.com. In addition, a credible news organization has its website professionally designed. Be sceptical of sloppy, amateurish formatting and frequent spelling or grammatical errors

Step 3: – Compare with other sources

  • Look for articles on the same topic published by other agencies: Run a search on the topic to verify its authenticity. See if other news organizations have reported it.
  • Ask experts on the topic: When in doubt, get in touch with someone who could help you better understand the topic or recommend reliable sources.
  • Cross verify with fact checkers: In addition to reputable news sources, there are a number of websites that debunk fake news stories. If you come across a suspicious story, see if it’s been vetted by sites, for instance,

i) FactCheck.org

ii) Politifact

iii) The International Fact-Checking Network

There is no need for any complex tools for debunking most of these hoaxes. All you need is some common sense to not accept everything written online as the truth.

By Ranabir Bhattacharyya, Subhajit Bhattacharya and K. Sanjay Kumar (IPS)