In 2018 Dec, there was a news in “whatsapp” that 2000kg of dog meat had come to the Chennai Central Railway station from North India. This dog meat is used in the hotels in Chennai instead of mutton. There were also pictures of long tails of dogs together with the meat, first in the ‘whatsapp’ then in the television channels. But it soon was made clear that the meat is really mutton. This is just one example of fake news. Today we are living in an age of communication explosion. News can be sent to millions of people in a fraction of a moment. Through ‘whatsapp’ and other social media of communication such as e-mail, twitter, facebook, instagram, every second a lot of news are spread in the far and wide of the planet. This fake news affects us unconsciously our thoughts and actions of everyday. Collective opinions are created either for good purpose or perverted purpose.
The fake news can be classified into two groups. Misunderstood news and falsified news. A fact is unconsciously misunderstood and sent to others and a fact is purposely falsified with hidden agenda and sent to others. Both the type of news are dangerous to the society. The first one is a fact, happens because of an individual’s mistake but the second one is a falsified news created by an individual or a group with a selfish motive.
In the previous centuries, the news was disseminated through newspapers and radio. People hear the news discuss it with others. There is a difference between those who create the news and those who disseminate news. But today through ‘whatsapp’ and other social media of communication, everyone has become creator of news and disseminator of news.
Though newspapers and television have a powerful role in shaping the thought patterns of people, now the social communication media have become much more powerful and common among the masses. People send the news to others as soon as they get in the mobile phone or to all the members of the group through whatsapp. People don’t verify whether the news they got is true or false, they don’t distinguish whether it is a mistaken news or a falsified news. The false news reaches easily in India, to everyone precisely because, the sender or receiver does not pay anything for it as it is free in the package. Some use these social media to become popular in politics and society. Unverified news is spread through newspaper or through television it spreads only to those who read the newspaper or see the television at that time. But the same news through digital social media spreads to everyone who has a touchscreen mobile phone in a fraction of a second as it is used widely by people.
BBC has found out in its research in India that lot of fake news are being spread for political agenda or to create sensation and violence to disturb peace in the society. Some purposely spread fake news to vitiate the political history of India, to brainwash the minds of innocent people, to propagate their ideas and visions of the future India. Political parties use it to propagate what they have achieved during their tenure of their rule and to point out the failures of the opponents.
Hence it is important to distinguish between falsehood and truth as soon as we receive news in the digital social media. We should not believe them as true however sensational it may be and send it to others and spread falsehood in the world. As responsible citizen we have an obligation to verify the truthfulness of the news.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur