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Post at: Sep 06 2021

Menace of Fake News in India

Why in News

  • On July 26, 2021, ANI published a story claiming ZhihuiHou will undergo an anti-doping test and MirabaiChanu will be awarded the gold medal if Hou fails the test. ANI’s report was carried by The Economic Times, Catch News, Business Standard, Times Now, India.com, Republic and The Telegraph.
  • Later on July 30, 2021 ANI published another story stating there has been no testing and it was an inadvertent error while reporting the news.
  • Like this, there are lots of fake news being reported in India as well as across the globe; recognizing this and after years of accusations that twitter and other social media platforms are spreading misinformation, Twitter has finally on August 17, 2021 given its users an easy way to report misleading tweets.
  • It is worth mentioning here that scientific advancement is very essential for the evolution but that's fine as long as it's not misused. In the recent times, alternative facts and fake news are evolving as other names for propaganda and spreads like wildfire by means of various social media platforms. Today every person holds a smartphone in his/her hand and thus is very vulnerable to fake news.

What is Fake News?

  • The term fake news eludes to reports, images, and videos that are shared to purposefully spread misinformation i.e. information that is factually incorrect. These type of news items may appear authentic at first and attempt to attract attention, shock, or shape opinions.
  • Fake news can be created by individuals or groups who are acting in their own interests or those of third parties. The creation of misinformation is usually motivated by personal, political, or economic agendas.
  • Notably, the sharing of fabricated news to shape public opinion on certain topics is not a recent phenomenon. Sensational headlines or political articles used to spread lies and propaganda have been around since the emergence of print media.
  • In times of digital information exchange, fake news has become more of an online phenomenon that is difficult to control. Fake news can reach high levels of visibility in a short amount of time because it’s easy to share via social media and social bots.

 

Causes of Spread of Fake News in India

 

There are many reasons for the spread of fake news, due to which it spreads. Some of these reasons are as follows:

  • Elimination of Media Ethics: Nowadays news media is no longer seen as an arbitrator of the ‘real news’. Media is alleged to be echo-chamber of the dominant political class. Thus News Media have lost credibility due to complicit and motivated reporting, which has become a source of fake news.
  • Social Media:In today's world, social media is doing the work of a parallel media. It is also good for democracy. But the other side is a bit dark and that is - it is through this that most of the fake news spreads.The advent of social media has decentralized the creation and propagation of fake news.
  • Polarization of the social structure: Increasing divide in the society on ideological lines has made the job of spreading fake news easier.
  • Lack of legislation: There is no specific law to deal with fake news in India.
  • Confirmation Bias: There are many studies which confermthat people don’t care about finding the ‘truth’ behind a news item and instead look for evidence to support their preferred narrative.

What are the Laws and Regulation to Curb Fake News in India?

  • Especially when it comes to the laws related to fake news, in India, there is no specific law against fake news in India. Notably, free publication of news flows from Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteeing Freedom of Speech.
  • Role of Press Council of India: It is a regulatory body which can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.
  • Information Technology Act 2000: According to the Section 66 of the act, if any person, dishonestly or fraudulently, does any act referred to in Section 43 (damage to computer, computer system), shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both.
  • Section 505(1) of Indian Penal Code, 1860- whoever by making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report which may cause fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  • Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005-Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic shall be punish with the Imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine.
  • Civil or Criminal Case for Defamation: It is another resort against fake news for individuals and groups hurt by the fake news. IPC Section 499 (defamation) and Section 500 (whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both) provide for a defamation suit.
  • Indian Penal Code: Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) can be invoked to guard against fake news.
  • News Broadcasters Association: It represents the private television news and current affairs broadcasters. The self-regulatory body probes complaints against electronic media.

Impact on Indian democracy

  • Catalyst role in disturbing social harmony:It can disturb the social fabric of the society and tensions among communities persists for long times. As communal tendencies emerge in politics due to the spread of fake news economic development has taken back seat
  • Deep Fake:Deep fakes are used by countries to target other countries and bring chaos or desired political changes.
  • Economic: As communal tendencies emerge in politics due to the spread of fake news economic development has taken back seat. The problems faced by the problems are not solved by the government.
  • International: Deep fakes are used by countries to target other countries and bring chaos or desired political changes. China and Russia are using deep fakes to target the hostile countries to gain political and trade benefits.

How to tackle it?

  • Education and Awareness
  • Strict Regulation
  • An ombudsman Institution
  • Legislation to Curb Fake News
  • Accountability of Social Media

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Conclusion

  • Nowadays, political campaigning has progressed from mere appeals in the name of identity or loyalty or tall promises to something akin to psychological warfare. Notably, parties must desist from spreading fake news or giving patronage to such media organizations.
  • At the same time mainstream as well social media must be accountable for spreading fake news. Both government and media have to combat the fake news menace collectively.

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