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Social Media And Fake News

Social media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content.[1] In online media, four social media platforms that produce most of the fake news are Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube.

Background
The origin of the concept of fake news can be traced back to the invention of the printing press in 1439 by Johannes Gutenberg. The use of social media in politics started in January 2007 when John Edwards announced his presidential candidacy. It was the first time when someone announced his candidacy through a YouTube video broadcast. The American presidential campaigns in 2008 were the first campaigns where the presidential candidates Obama and McCain used social media.

Furthermore, the Five Star Movement has become the first political party to do a campaign through only social media to coordinate its supporters, and to inform and engage voters. Its success has given further proof of the influence of social media on the political sphere. At present digital platforms are commonly used not only during elections but also for the 'permanent campaign' during periods of post-election governance.

The dissemination and diffusion of fake news have dramatically changed in speed, and magnitude as well. It has become a buzzword after the 2016 US election. Consequently Fake News was conferred as the word of the year by Collins dictionary because of widespread use of the term around the world.

What is Fake News?

Many scholars try to give different perspective typologies of fake news. Most of the typologies suggest that fake news is closely related to rumours, misinformation, or disinformation. Many times, these typologies are treated as synonyms. The malicious intention of fake news is unprecedented, because information technology makes it trans-border and trans-media, and therefore viral.

As a result, World Economic Forum included the spread of online misinformation as one of the top 10 risks facing by the world[2] WEF used online misinformation as a synonym of fake news, in the report. It is provided that the definition of the word fake is disputed.

Propagandist

From ancient times political leaders try to manipulate the human mind for instance in divine origin theory the king used to convey that the legitimate power to govern or rule over individuals, has been given by God itself and no one has authority to question the king or his act except God. In the 19th century, Adolf Hitler in Germany denounced Jewish as enemies of the people to manipulate others.

Italian leader Benito Mussolini founder of fascism was a journalist and knew well the power of news, as the fascist regime progressed and became more extreme, the methods were used to completely destroy not only the free press, but also any factual information. Similarly, throughout the twentieth century, North Korea used censorship, state-run media, and propaganda distributed via schools and the arts to manage North Korean inhabitants and attain the desired 'mass independence' from foreign influences.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that opposition parties also try to manipulate the mind of the public at large using fake news as a tool, as observed during Myanmar and Gabon coups due to the spread of misinformation.

Political Goals

It is observed that politically inspired fake news is spread for two reasons
  1. they intensify social conflict to undermine communal faith in the democratic process and the ability of a community to work together.
  2. they distract the general public from important issues to make these issues remain unresolved.

Fake News and Manipulation

Politics and ideology are not the only factors why an individual creates and spreads fake news. In many surveys and interviews, it is surveyed that money plays a crucial big role in the creation and spread of fake news. A study conducted by an anonymous coder on Reddit find that thousands of 'fake accounts' are in use to push fake news for both the BJP and Congress.

In report there were 17,779 accounts fitting the description of being seed accounts.[3] Workers of these cells very well know how to manipulate the mind of the general public and seem to have all the factors to spread it successfully.

Congress used a photo from Bangladesh indicating increase of poverty in India. A video was circulated during the 2019 election featuring Mr. Modi saying he had not studied beyond 10th grade which was shared by Congress supporters the video was a portion of an older interview in which Mr. Modi was making it clear that the higher education qualifications were attained through external exams after leaving formal schooling.

Another false claim during the 2019 election was observed that prosthetic Japanese manufactured fingers are being used to allow citizens to vote multiple times. Many scholars argue that Indian democracy is at stake as media is the fourth pillar of democracy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on the list of 37 heads of state or government that the global body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has identified as 'predators of press freedom'.[4]

Every year in media freedom index position of India is declining, which shows that the government is controlling the media both online and offline. First time in India Twitter tagged a tweet 'manipulated media' when Amit Malviya, the Bharatiya Janata Party's IT cell head, tweeted out an edited clip from the farmers' protests. It was found that BJP-affiliated handles keep tweeting in high volumes even at times when nothing particular is happening, by posting low-effort content to ensure that when searching for a specific issue, pro-BJP voices appear more frequently.

Fake News during Covid-19

With the help of some incidents manipulators created fake news, for instance, February's Delhi riots, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), out of 1447 fact-checks on five Indian websites, claims that 58% of the fake news was coronavirus dominated.[5] During Covid-19 crisis fake news has been playing a crucial role, in the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6 000 people around the globe were hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation[6] thus, WHO named it Infodemic. Following the incident at the Tablighi Jamaat conference, there was a deluge of fake news condemning the Muslim community for the pandemic, both on social media and in the mainstream media.

Factors to spread Fake News

Fake news requires three factors social networks, motivation, and tools and services to be present to be successful. Nowadays these IT cells seem to have all the factors social networks being WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube. Motivation as mentioned above money is the main motivation and the workers in the cells get paid very high salaries and tools and services being numbers of different accounts on these social media platforms all accounts working and spreading fake news every day.

Social media plays an effective role in the activation of youth in politics according to a Pew Research Centre poll, 23% of adults in the United States have shared news with friends and others, consciously or unknowingly, which makes the infodemic crisis more serious. Increasingly polarized political fake news problems may be difficult to fix without fixing the larger problem of political polarization. Unfortunately, this is much harder to accomplish than adding automatic fact-checks on social media platforms.

Laws in India
In India, no specific law deals directly with fake news but some regulating bodies regulate mediums of the press. For instance, the Press Council of India functions under the Press Council Act 1978, it is a statutory, quasi-judicial agency that serves as a press watchdog, it hears complaints against the press for ethical violations and violations of press freedom. The Indian government changed the Guidelines for Accreditation of Journalists on April 2, 2018, to combat false news in the media by allowing accreditation of journalists to be revoked even before the scheduled 15-day investigation is completed. It was withdrawn fifteen hours after protests by the media for being authoritarian.

Additionally, certain sections partly deal with fake news, for instance, IPC Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), Section 499 (defamation), and 500 (whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both), and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) deal indirectly with the spread of fake news.

Additionally, Section 66 in The Information Technology Act, 2000, provided that if any person, dishonestly or fraudulently, does any act referred to in section 43 (damage to the computer or computer system), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both deals with fake news. India even after having these laws failed to tackle the infodemic crisis. Many times, the central government of India announces social media guidelines to curb its misuse. Though certain social media platforms release their report on content removal, it is certainly not enough to tackle the situation.

Conclusion
The media plays an important role in the formation of the mind and influences society and when these media platforms provide fake news more often, tension and restlessness in the society increase. Fake news leads to religious tension, communal violence, riots, hatred, lynching, and threats to democracy, etc.

According to studies, the dissemination of fake news in India that leads to mob lynching is primarily motivated by "prejudice and ideology," rather than "ignorance or digital literacy". The spread of fake news is not only taking dangerous forms but also threatening the democracy of the country.

References:
  1. (PDF) Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media | jeyhun hajiyev - Academia.edu
  2. www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GAC_GlobalAgendaOutlook_2014.pdf
  3. Massive tweet volumes, complex hierarchies, coordinated attacks: Hacker reveals how BJP, Congress IT cells wage war on social media-India News , Firstpost
  4. RSF's 2021 Press freedom predators gallery old tyrants, two women and a European | RSF
  5. Coronavirus: The human cost of fake news in India - BBC News
  6. Fighting misinformation in the time of COVID-19, one click at a time (who.int)

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