Editorial View, in Asian ‘Age, Nov 14, 2018
Extensive research by the BBC World Service has thrown light on what India has known for a while as an incipient problem of fake news.
The political atmosphere is so vitiated, though, with both sides tending to believe in hurling invective, that fake news and trolls, generated largely by paid cyber cells, has turned into a serious, viral problem.
Note: Fake news, post truth, alt truth etc are of American origin, especially with the advent of President Trump. We wrote about it earlier. Now with all the talk of the town on Sabarimala and Ram temple in Ayodya, in the midst of the up coming 2019 election, it all looks like we are in the midst of a shouting match between supporters of supreme court judgment of Sept. 28th and believers in the blind faith of a motley crowd led by persons like Rahul Iswar excelling in sound and speed in speech. An exercise to fish in troubled waters!
Solid gender equality judgment
It must be noted that Supreme court handed down a solid historic judgment on gender equality, which stays unchanged. The court did it after years of deliberations over dozens of petitions which the whole country is bound to follow and not easy to be reversed. It is unfortunate that in spite of Rahul Gandhi’s personal view that he supports the judgment, the Congress in Kerala is in total disarray, not deserving the votes of any thinking person. Rahul has thus proved himself to be a weak national Congress leader, it is said.
Court statement stays unchanged
Time is the best remedy to cool tempers. So the S.Court has postponed the case for open hearing to next February, with the clear statement that the court verdict is not cancelled but stands in full force to be obeyed, meaning the over 500 women between 10 and 50 who applied to visit Sabarimala should be enabled to reach their destination. It has put the blind believers and also the state government in a dilemma. The first is itching to revolt to create law and order problem; the second much against its wish, would be compelled to resort to force to take young women wishing to visit Sabarimala.
One can only hope that reason and good sense will prevail over blind faith and meaningless pious practices supported by BJP and Hindutva brigade. To the credit of Kerala CM it should be stated that he had been strong and clear in his statements and short on taking any young ladies so far, to Sannydanam. What is going to happen in the coming days? Who will blink first? We have to wait and see!
Facts are sacred!
In journalism, the principle is facts are sacred, opinions are free and people change opinions to suit private vested interests like getting votes to win by hook or crook. As Pope Francis said, “that it has been done always” will not make something correct and factual. Such is the case with many of our blind beliefs and ritualistic religious practices. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below Editorial in Asian age.
Extensive research by the BBC World Service has thrown light on what India has known for a while as an incipient problem of fake news. The hyper-nationalism promoted by large political groups was fuelled by wide use of the mobile Internet enabled for millions thanks to low data prices.
Fake news, it has been claimed, is driven by the jingoism of ruling forces. What started as a legitimate effort to project their policies/programmes has been taken over by hate campaigns run by cyber goons against Opposition leaders.
Opposing them in this tech-enabled divisive war of pure vitriol is the major Opposition party’s social media cell. What we hear now as the fruit of research is any control over fake news has been lost in India with WhatsApp, the major instrument of connectivity among individuals and groups, helpless about the spread of fake news.
There’s a difference between what Donald Trump rails against as “fake news” in the United States — which is actually news and opinions not in his favour — and what India’s “fake news” is. Our variety is to spread chauvinistic false information leading to disruptive social tensions. The huge misinformation outbreak of that led to a mass exodus of northeastern people from South India was one such consequence. Indians tend to read and believe information that is forwarded by trusted friends without first checking on its veracity.
WhatsApp tried limiting forwards to groups in terms of the number of messages, but that strategy has largely failed. Research shows WhatsApp tags are acting to encourage more forwards. In Kenya and Nigeria, where the same study was done, people were at least trying harder to verify the accuracy of the forwarded messages.
How then do we bring about Internet hygiene in India, to cleanse the system of hate and venom generated by a well-oiled machine run by rightist forces?Besides urging people to distrust all instant news sources that are not backed by traditional media methodology, such as identifying more than one source to authenticate a news development and its careful dissemination, there’s little that can be done.
With the deep split between the government and Opposition that such propagandist use of mass communications has caused, no normal social media check is possible. This is the huge social challenge — and civil society, the government and tech companies needs to act in a concerted manner.
The political atmosphere is so vitiated, though, with both sides tending to believe in hurling invective, that fake news and trolls, generated largely by paid cyber cells, has turned into a serious, viral problem. The world, once driven by hard facts, is losing the battle to toxic propaganda. Political parties need to rein in their cyber armies, and quickly.