By Dr Suman Kumar Kasturi | THE HANS INDIA | Nov 22,2018 , 11:28 PM IST
Social media embraced the common man with the advent of smartphones. India is the second largest market for smartphones with China being the first. In the past few years, India has seen a rapid upswing in the Internet users.
For any media to be interactive, it needs to co-exist with some sort of communication techniques. In order to make communication into an interactive dialogue, the social media turns to be one of the most successful applications of Satmass Media. Social media has become very significant because of its two precise characteristics — ubiquity and interactivity. These characteristics make the social media better-off.
However, there is a major problem associated with it. Checking the veracity of facts on social media is not tailor-made. In traditional media, the editors have a level of control over what appears in it. However, there is no such provision in social media.
Mark Twain once said, “A lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on.” This is most valid for social media. As false news is more novel than factual news, it travels more widely and faster. It is a proven fact that humans are more likely than mechanised processes to be liable for the spread of fake news. Due to this tendency of people believing the whole thing that makes rounds on social media, an underpinning of a new group of people called WebQoofs has emerged out.
As defined, a WebQoof is a person who believes every word or information on the Internet and social media. In actual fact, it is the excessive social media agog among the netizens that make the leeway for the fraudsters to make fiction, a fact. In this background, there is a need to answer why at all fake news circulates on social media?
Palpably, the very fact that there is no regulatory authority to verify the veracity of facts has become an advantage to the offenders. The people are lured to click on a fake message. Thus, they unknowingly give access to their private information, which is misutilised in many ways. Most of the cyber crimes have the same modus operandi.
Online fraudsters often use celebrity rumours to target people with malicious software designed to steal their personal data. For example, in recent times, there was a fake news that made rounds on the social media, concerning the apocryphal death of Rowan Atkinson, the actor who is popularly known as Mr.Bean. This viral hoax offered itself as a video homage.
The video link, when followed, would redirect the users to a made-up security page and allegedly prompt them to dial a specific phone number. The person who dials the number will be asked to provide his credit card information in order to purchase a so-called software fix, which will truly pierce the targeted computer with viruses.
Besides, in order to generate more revenue from online ads, many of the websites try to keep catchy and sensational headlines to latch onto the attention. Also, they do not take a step back to promote fake news. Of course, all such attempts are made very smartly so that they can retain the visitors even while misleading them.
Political propaganda is another significant issue that makes an attempt to turn the fake news into real news. Irrespective of every Tom, Dick, and Harry, almost all every politician has been a victim on the social media. At a time when political propaganda is in ready supply, and in demand, social media functions as a mechanism of dissemination.
In a country like India, where everything that is circulated on social media becomes a gospel, things can often go out of control. Just by mere sharing of a post, the communication process is ended up. However, there is a need to follow scepticism. In many occasions, scepticism of online news serves as a microfilter. Still, our inborn prejudices allow it only to be circumvented.
At this crucial juncture, truly there is a need for more openness by the social media giants. In order to tackle the problem of fake news, greater association by them with suitably qualified associates is essential. Evidently, traditional media organisations could become major backers. No sooner they find that some fake news is circulating on the social media than they can alert the masses. They can act as the agents to assess veracity and maintain trust among the masses with their contributions, which can lead to their peaceful and democratic life.