The deeper penetration of the internet and the growing sophistication of social networks, artificial intelligence and machine learning are meant to provide for ease and comfort to the lives of people. Instead, there’s been a growing concern of disinformation, increased cybercrimes and widespread breach of privacy and data leaks.
India is home to the largest number of social media users in the world spread across platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, ShareChat and TikTok. Fake stories, rumours and hate speech spread like wildfire through social media have directly and indirectly led to various incidents of mob attacks and lynching in the country.
Fake news and disinformation across digital media has been on a record high in the last five years than in any time in history. In India, it hit an all-time high in 2019 with every major event triggering polarization, hate crimes and even protests on and beyond social media platforms. And while that led to the rise of fact-checkers like altnews who have come to people’s rescue against rumours and deliberate disinformation, the job of ridding the world of fake news and disinformation is far from over.
But the onus of being putting a curb to the spread of fake news cannot solely lie with the fact-checkers; it lies with each one of us. Here are some efficient ways to combat fake news and disinformation:
Check the legitimacy of the source
While it’s a good practice to stay updated on the news worldwide, it is also highly encouraged to check the source of the news one is consuming. Not everything you read on the internet is the truth. Fact-check the source of the news before you start believing them and sharing them with the others. There are many fact-checking websites like FactCheck.org, Politifact, OpenSecrets.org etc. where you can verify and validate a news or any information going viral.
Break the chain
Not only should you validate your personal newsfeed and social media updates, you should be wary of what you’re sharing with the others. While it may be well-intentioned, fake news, rumours and disinformation often times spread through the social grapevine. For instance, “my friend sent me on WhatsApp” or “look at what I found on Facebook.” These updates may feel more relatable since we’re hearing them from someone we know. So keep in mind to fact-check before you partake in that social media chain.
Report fake news and disinformation
All social media platforms have the feature to report feed that you find malicious, abusive or incorrect. If you find any such news or update that you upon fact-checking found to be untrue, report them immediately so they would be taken down by the authorities.
Safeguard against imposters and scammers
Sharing compassion and empathy is what makes us mankind and a community. But beware of cybercriminals taking advantage of this generosity as well. Check for the legitimacy of the charity sites and NGOs you are donating to. Often times, these are bad actors posing as agents of philanthropy in the name of donating resources to the underserved population. Make sure you are not falling for some scams and phishing attacks.
The fight against fake news and disinformation is a long battle. And this can only be won if we are vigilant, rationale and protected against bias and prejudices. So every time you read the news or a feed pops up in your social media that seems inflammatory, check for its authenticity before you start believing it.