- As information about the Covid-19 spread across the country a few weeks back, so did the amount of
fake newsbeing peddled out on messaging apps and social media platforms.
- These fake messages contained varied things from theories to remedies of
Coronavirus, and the messages spread like wild fire.
- Akshaara Lalwani, Founder & CEO,
Communicate Indiawrites about this menace and how the need of the hour is to create awareness and sensitize people towards the harm fake news brings along with it.
Over the last few years, WhatsApp has been the unfortunate messenger of several pieces of fake information, from fabricated videos of pro and anti-government propaganda to the more recent ‘Chai and Rasam can kill Coronavirus’. While this is just a small part of the much larger fake news fiasco, it begs the question, what can we do to curb it, especially in times of pandemics.
In a country with over a billion people and over 600 (at the time of writing) infected with novel Coronavirus, the battle against the pandemic faces many obstacles. Notwithstanding inadequate infrastructure, and a stretched healthcare system, misinformation and fake news has the potential to do as much damage.
When news of COVID-19 first broke, it sent Indians into a frenzy, which also meant there was a thirst for information and answers. Sadly, miscreants took advantage of this, to come up with impractical, if not downright bizarre theories, and remedies, which due to the lack of medical and official information, spread like wild fire.
Being on both sides of the table, creating, as well as consuming news, it pains me to admit that the virality of fake news is at a much faster rate than we can debunk it. Very often, despite best attempts from industry experts, and online fact checkers, we see the same fake news making the rounds again. Taking cognizance of the fact that fake news can be as harmful as Coronavirus itself, the government recently launched a WhatsApp chatbot, to address queries, and quell rumours; but is this enough?
Just going by the rate at which news about cures and remedies for Coronavirus is being spread, it is obvious, that we are concerned citizens; just misinformed. While local authorities, Facebook Inc. and Google are doing the best that they can to curb the spread of fake news, the onus is on us, to help in this mission. At a micro level, what we can do is immediately debunk fake news when we receive it, to avoid the sender spreading the news to more people, as well as consistently share government and medical reports which are fact based. Especially in a time like this, we need to sensitize people towards the harm fake news brings along with it. Awareness is definitely the need of the hour, a responsibility each one of us must shoulder.
That being said, with the influx and increasing popularity of user generated content across the internet, I don’t see fake news being completely eradicated in the near future. What I definitely do hope to see is more responsible citizens and the media calling out fake news, and filling the internet with facts, truth. As famous journalist and author Walter Lippmann once said, “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil”, we must, as a conscientious media and country come together to create an environment built on trust and facts.
- This column has been authored by