What is fake news? It is the content that is created to counter real events and facts, often with the intent of causing harm. Sometimes, it can have disastrous results, both online as well as in the physical form. This Quint article will help you in understanding how to spot fake news and in this blog, I would like to take this understanding further by telling you about the things I feel can help in stopping the spread of fake news.
Kill it when you can
Fortunately, it’s not as difficult to stop fake news as it seems because all you really need is a little vigilance. The most important rule is to never forward a WhatsApp message. Just don’t do it. Especially, if it says something negative about someone or some community. Remember, if you kill the spread of the message through your phone, it can eventually help in saving someone’s life! Same goes with re-tweets and shares.
Read before sharing!
One of the worst things you can do is to click the share button without caring to read what the entire article says. Don’t fall into the trap of click baits! It is very easy to share an article without reading but it is very difficult to control the consequences of this laid-back attitude. On September 20, when it had rained pretty heavily and an IMD warning had been issued, I had personally received messages about a certain cyclone awaiting to create havoc in the city and after being through the worst on August 29, it was scary. However, I made it a point to fact-check it with the Mumbai Police Official Twitter handle and found that they had tweeted about the same during the August 29 disaster.
Question the source
Even if it’s a well-known news outlet! Although now everyone knows that the entire Jawaharlal Nehru University students row was nothing more than a sad propaganda, which was fuelled by doctored videos, it wasn’t the case back then. The students involved had been on the receiving end of abuses and threats of life. Why you ask? Because of people, who for the most part, blindly accepted what they saw and considered these students guilty, without questioning the source of information. Please always ask yourself, “What could be the source of this news piece?” It might just save a life or two, at least from humiliation.
After the August 29 deluge, when it again started to rain heavily on September 19, Vinod Tawde, the state education minister of Maharashtra tweeted about schools being closed the next day. However, before this tweet came up late night, screenshots and tweets of when he had tweeted the same about the August issue had been widely circulated on WhatsApp, leading to confusion when the genuine tweet came about.
Now, it’s very easy to fact-check something like this because if there is an announcement like this in the late hours of the day, the minister is bound to put up a tweet. I wouldn’t even ask you to check news outlets for when you can fact-check in your personal capacity, it is always better to not depend on anyone for the same.
Do your research
There are many websites you can turn to, to fact-check news pieces. My personal favourite is BOOM Fact Check. I try keeping a track of fake news through their twitter page. They also put forth researched articles about how to understand and break news pieces. Now the thing you need to understand is that not all news outlets have the resources or the time to analyse news before they put it out. This is extremely sad and scary but it’s very important to know and accept it. This is the reason why it’s important to know about those people who specialise in research and devote their time to get to the root of what’s true and what’s not.
Talk, listen and always verify
Talk to people around you, discuss the issues you feel strongly about, especially with the ones who don’t think like you. This will help you understand your options and alternatives. But never consider these people an authentic source of information for what they say is also something they have heard. Go back and read on what they are saying and trust only credible sources for the verification process.
I would like to end stressing on Professor Moody’s words, “Constant Vigilance!”