A digital-age menace christened fake news

A digital-age menace christened fake news
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(K Sanjay Kumar Gurudin, an IPS officer of the 2005 batch, Kerala cadre, is a socially conscious cop, a well-known cyber expert, and an author of the must-read book 'Is Your Child Safe?' He has had an outstanding and illustrious career as superintendent of police in Kerala).

The business of fake news is here to stay and Artificial Intelligence (AI) or legal framework is not an absolute solution. But common sense is.

A viral video on child safety made by a promotional agency in Pakistan triggered violence in various part of India. The video, made and edited to trigger panic about 'child lifters' on the prowl, spread on social media platforms and WhatsApp like wildfire. Videos of alleged child abduction along with fake information spiralling on social media have led to the murder of more than 25 people in mob-lynching incidents reported across India in the past two months.

Fake whatsApp messages, including those showing houses being marked by child lifters, Rs 2,000 note embedded with GPS trackers and announcing the arrival of Cyclone Phyan in Mumbai, are endless as dissemination of information and fake news is widespread over social media. These are mostly based on doctored violent images for instigation or sympathy.

Millions of Internet and social networking sites users are falling for fake news, and sometimes with deadly consequences.

At the end of 2017, India had 481 million internet users, making it the country with the second largest number of internet users.

The country's internet user base is growing at the rate of 11.34 per cent.

Many of these users have been mobile-first users of the internet and hence they are not aware of the fake messages. They tend to think the messages they get are genuine, and this makes the country highly vulnerable.

False news has pervaded all spheres of life. It has become a part of everyday life, exacerbating weather crises, increasing hate violence between castes and religions and even affecting matters of public health.

This problem is not because of innocent forwarding of the messages. It is the handiwork of highly organised groups having vested interests.

Provocative contents, inaccurate information, doctored videos and pictures are intentionally fed on social media and highly sophisticated tools and networks are used to make the content viral.

What is fake news

• Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform.

• Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive -- or old photographs shared as new.

• Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool and harass people.

Tackling fake news

The Indian legal system has limited legal options to tackle this menace, but those are focused only on hate speech and defamation. The legal mechanism does not have direct provisions governing rumours on social and electronic media.

The government has taken up matter with internet giants to come up with solutions to filter fake news.

A digital-age menace christened fake news

In turn these social media giants are experimenting with Artificial intelligence (AI) to cross check the news story against a dynamic database of stories, which may help to identify the legitimacy of the news.

AI can run fact-checkers with high speed but will surely fall short to actually address this problem. Legal framework or AI system, hence, is not absolute solution.

Due diligence on part of the user is highly essential. The individual should make himself intelligent enough to distinguished trusted news from those of fake.

Tips to identify fake news

Step 1: Take out a moment to evaluate the news, before you share

• Control your forwarding impulse: Does the story have an eye-catching headline that tempts you to share or forward it even before you read it? Do not simply share, retweet or forward the message by the disclaimer “forwarded as received”, but read and understand the content.

• Confirm that Content is current: - Check the news story’s date, as older articles might include outdated information.

• Figure out purpose of the news.: Question yourself why the writer has created the news article. What is the purpose, and who benefits from it being spread? A credible story should report facts without trying to promote some ulterior motive

• Think how the story makes you feel. Check your own biases and emotional reaction. If the story is like a preaching or fills you with rage or makes you feel disturbed about your beliefs, it might not be a balanced source of information.

Step 2: Examining the source of the news

Cross check by reverse image search: When you right click an image, you’ll see an option to search Google for the image. When you search for the image, you’ll be able to see other websites that have featured it.

Look for strange URLs. A suspicious news website might have an unusual URL that tries to mimic a legitimate news source, such as abc.com.co instead of abc.com. In addition, a credible news organisation has its website professionally designed. Be skeptical of sloppy, amateurish formatting and frequent spelling or grammatical errors

Step 3: Compare with others sources

• Look for articles on same topic published by other agencies: Run a search on the topic to verify its authenticity. See if other news organizations have reported it

• Ask experts on the topic: When in doubt, get in touch with someone who could help you better understand the topic or recommend reliable sources.

• Cross verify with fact checkers. In addition to reputable news sources, there are a number of websites that debunk fake news stories. If you come across a suspicious story, see if it’s been vetted by sites for instance

a.i) FactCheck.org

a.ii) Politifact

a.iii) The International Fact-Checking Network

All you need is some common sense to not accept everything written online as the truth. There is no need for any complex tools for debunking most of these hoaxes.

(Please direct your queries to korisanjay7ips@gmail.com)

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