Fake News – Importance of knowledge in the time of rampant WhatsApp forwards and social media posts

  • During a family gathering, someone started mocking a national political leader for his trademark Yatra, and everything he was talking about that leader was one of the many WhatsApp forwards we routinely receive.
  • Recently, I received a WhatsApp message advising me not to make Roti ( chapati, wheat bread ) by directly putting the half cooked on the gas flame as it may lead to some disease.
  • Just two years ago, during the Covid-19 first wave, the misleading WhatsApp messages outnumbered well-wishers’ messages.
  • Also, during COVID-19, so much fake news circulated by miscreants targeted the law and order of the country.
  • My mother used to tell me a story of Lord Ganesh drinking milk in 1996. The news spread like wildfire, and temples on that particular day saw the flood of milk flowing through the drain.
  • A couple of years ago, there were rumors of some invisible person cutting the braided hair of women.
  • We are used to false news about the demise of some noted person.
  • There are rumors of the disappearance of some essential commodities, like salt, sugar, onions, wheat, etc., from the market.
  • We hear many untruthful information from anonymous sources by word of mouth.
  • There were rumors of GPS-enabled rupee 2000 notes issued by the Indian government as part of Demonetization.
  • Much fake news about abduction, conversion, rape, murder, and burglary is finding a place on social media platforms.

There are so many rumors that we go through in the name of news and social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Quora, Telegram, X ( Twitter ), and Instagram – all act as super spreaders for them.

One of the recent fake news in India is the death news of actress Poonam Pandey.

The publicity stunt by an actor or an actress is not new in India, but this time it was like crossing the limit as the fake death news was circulated in the name of awareness for Cervical Cancer in India.

The saddest side of the story is every other media house circulated the news without any validation and double-checking.

What a nuisance –

The monotonous, tedious, and perplexing routine of sending tones of WhatsApp forwards to tens of different groups without verifying can lead to a filthy mess even in unsuspecting minds.

By far and away, we have sources behind the flood of fake information to set some narratives against someone or to try to make a discourse for someone.

There are fake examination papers or answer keys of some competitive exams doing rounds just before the exams. Imagine this situation and guess the mental agony of students and examinees.

There is fake news about the price rise of pulses in the retail market, making people go haywire against the government.

Many instances can be given in a go, citing the menacing fake news business and its side effects in the social arena.

After-effects of fake social media forwards –

Blurting things out to make a fake statement against anyone is easy.

Distorting facts to favor naysayers is easy.

Dishonoring the sentiments, dishonoring the hard labor of the performer, dishonoring the genuine efforts of people – everything is easy.

In India, the effects of fake news are way more disturbing than expected, as there is crude data of almost 900 million people in India who are using internet services.

This data is enough to depose the grievous impact of fake news, false information, and intriguing social media posts.

Why India?

It is high time for the people who purportedly make fake videos, fake posts, and fake reels, instigating innocent people to take it seriously.

Yes, this is happening in India, where many social media users just forward any posts in groups without any thorough check.

It is happening in India to set a narrative for the political parties they support.

It is happening in India because of the degree of multi-dimensional diversity here.

It is happening in India as there are multiple contradictory factors in India in every nook and corner.

The World Economic Forum has enlisted the ‘Fake Information ‘ as the biggest threat to the world in the next two years.

India is ranked number one regarding the fake information – as said in ‘The Global Risks Report 2024.

What Indian laws say about fake information –

We expect our leaders to keep their words, promises, and vision.

But in India, we have several severe cases of law violations despite having a detailed mention in the Indian Panel Code.

We have –

Section – 505

Section – 505 ( 1 )

Section – 153

Section – 153 (A )

Section – 295 ( A )

Section – 54 

Section – 63 

Section – 203

Section -299

Section – 499

Section – 500

Under the IT Act 2000, we have Sections 67, 69, and 79 to check the fake, false, and misleading information coming to us via the Internet and social media platforms.

There is a proposal for amended IT rules in India to curb the issue of fake and false news in social media.

Many Indian states even set up their unit of fact-checking for this.

Since I am an apolitical and law-abiding citizen, I can’t write more regarding the sections and articles of the Indian Panel Code.

Conclusion –

We grew up with a simple saying, “The truth prevails, and the liar faces black.”

However, in the influx of misleading and false information coming to us through various social media platforms, we get swayed away by all the wrong perceptions.

With Artificial Intelligence or AI, the extent of fake news is going to a new low.

Cyberbullying through false videos is giving nightmares to internet users.

Issues of literacy, awareness, and political references also add to this problem.

Fake news harms an amicable and amiable society in a micro way.

One can’t measure the depth and length of the damage by falsely inciting social media posts in India as India is a diversely different country, and politics here always play a reversal role in the way of making a homogeneous country.  

Checking viral posts is important,, it is our responsibility to check and double-check social media posts before sharing them with others in the group.

AI is real, nationalism is real, humanity is real, and we must protect the harmonious ecosystem of the country. This should be our preferred duty to our nation.

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