Fake news refers mainly to misinformation and disinformation that is spread through person to person through mouth and media, either print or digital for communication for example edited videos, memes, advertisements and social media propaganda or rumours. Fake news is defined as stories purporting to be news that is intentionally and verifiably false and can misinform and mislead readers. The UNESCOdescribes two distinct forms of fake news that are deliberately created with intention of targeting and causing harm to a social group, organization, a person or, a country termed as disinformation and the other is simple misinformation and not created to cause harm. This is a worldwide phenomenon, and the term has been used since 1890 when sensational news, was common in newspapers. Of course, there was no fixed definition of the term. This is carefully applied on large scale to describe any type of false information by the unintentional and unconscious mechanism by high profile person to their perspectives. Again, disinformation is a type of spread of false information with harmful intentions and is sometimes generated by a popular person for good impact. There is a sudden increase of fake news worldwide with the rise of social media, especially Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, News Feed and sometimes even influences the mainstream media.
The intention and motive of the fake news are important. Sometimes the news appears to be an exaggeration of nonfactual material used to amuse the people and is called news satire. However, they are not harmful at all. Fake news, misinformation, and propaganda are dangerous for society because they have the potential to polarize public opinion on a specific issue and may lead to undermining the various processes that are vital for society. The term fake news, propaganda and misinformation go side by side and are overlapping as well. These are used in a way to share information to cause harm, intentionally or unintentionally to promote a particular issue that may be of any context starting from moral to a political cause. These may be misinformation shared not to harm, disinformation shared intentionally to cause harm, and mal-information true information shared intentionally to cause harm. Though these are not new, they have taken a new sphere of life due to the widespread availability of sophisticated gadgets about information technology and communication. Now due to social media technology, the news spread like wildfire and becomes viral in no time. As most people rely on social media news today, it's very vital to know about the impact on society, to prevent ill effects. As most of the young generation are busy gathering news and information from the social media and internet most of the time for their knowledge and recreation too and are vulnerable to propaganda, misinformation, and fake news.
In India, during the general election, of 2019 there is a lot of propaganda and fake news for the benefit of political parties. Again, during the CAA movements and in Kashmir issues entire social media were flooded with fake news of various categories to create confusion amongst people and destabilize social harmony. During the demonetization of Indian currencies, news spread and even aired on popular news channels about the installation of Nano-GPS chip in 2000 rupees currency notes to track the black money. This is fake news, and a similar type of news is circulated in digital media to create a better TRP for TV channels. Recently, hue and cry are being raised against a popular TV channel for such manipulation of TRP and thus misguiding the general public by circulating motivating news. Likewise, there is a lot of paid news during the election to create popularity and to act as per the agenda of the political parties for their benefit and deceive the general population as well. There is plenty of fake news well circulated in various mediums starting from social media to other forms of news media, even misguiding and duping youth for employment, and so on with fake advertisements for enrolling themselves with a certain amount of money.
This social media has become the breeding ground for fake and false news as everyone has the liberty to use the media as their wish. This is the ground reality. So, one needs to verify the news before believing and sharing it, whether the information has a named, reliable source. A critical mind-set needs to develop for stories, as fake news often leaves information out of the context and needs to check the representation of a particular group or person as well. Need to verify the images published, if not relevant, on Google reverse. One needs to think about the legitimacy of the news that we receive.
For controlling such fake news on social media like What's app, Facebook, Twitter, etc., have taken steps to educate the public against the fake news, etc. and even delete the account to curb the spread. The government also has taken steps to educate the students in school and public education to make the public aware of such news. A regulation FACT (Find, Assess, Create, and Target) is set up by the department of information and broadcasting to counter the circulation of fake news on social media and other online sources. The app, Arogya Setu launched by the government has helped the citizen to get the right information in time and to avoid panic situations due to fake news as well. It was a timely and great initiative by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is the era of electronic communication; we can't avoid the internet and social media as there is so much information a click away. There must be strict rules and monitoring from the authority to curb fake news. Online news portals and social media cannot be avoided; they have a great role in providing information and guidance to society in various fields.
Amity university Kolkata