Raising General Literacy To Combat ‘Fake News’ Boom


What is fake news?

There are plenty of things which pop up on social media feeds that may appear to be true although often they are not. Fake news is in fact made-up news, stories or hoaxes deliberately spread to misinform or deceivereaders with a bigger propaganda and an understandably evil motive to create confusion and chaos. Such propaganda can be to influence views of the common man, categorically pushing a political agenda, creating social confusion or communal disharmony or creating a motivated profit-making business for a special group of people. Overall, it can be said that the three Ms – mistrust, misinformation and manipulation are the three basic elements of fake news.

The rise of fake news is directly linked to Internet communication. Before the arrival of smartphones and the Internet, rumours used to create much confusion. But there is indeed a limitation of such news as far as spreading it over a specific radius of the area is concerned. As the high speed Internet has become a reality in India, a country which doesn’t have high digital literacy, fake news propaganda has caused havoc. Incidents of mob lynching based on specific fake news of child lifting, communal incidents do indicate the grave reality today. Whether it is Facebook or WhatsApp, the domain of the Internet has been exposed and unfortunately, the netizens are vulnerable to fake news. Restricting Internet is no solution as it is an integral part of freedom of expression and global communication in an era of international fraternity. But there is a narrow line of difference between the two. In a country like India, where diversity itself is a major component, any sort of fake news can indeed create a lot of trouble. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that cyber crime has increased manifold in the last three years and fake news propaganda is one of the key areas of concern for the security forces.

The Kolkata Police, which has already been a force to reckon with, has left no stone unturned in striking vigilance with regard to crime and punishment. There is a dedicated Facebook page as well asa Twitter profile on part of Kolkata Police which time and again issues directives and advisories. Whether it is the case of hoax call or bank fraud or just mere fake news, the police officials have been very adept in handling issues of cybercrime. Not only that, the Kolkata Police has become intensely vigilant, responding to queries with instant replies and this has ultimately yielded fruitful results no matter what the situation happens to be. The directives with regard to the fake news have helped to tackle the scenario much better than other states.