Beware of Fake News
Fake news being spread through social media to foment communal hatred and stigmatise particular groups has now become a major issue across the world.
Here is an example of such fake news.
According to firstpost.com, “Following the Amritsar train tragedy, in which at least 61 people lost their lives during Dussehra celebrations […] a number of false and misleading claims have been made by Twitter users and a mainstream media outlet.” One of the false claims being circulated on social media is to do with the religion of the driver. “Many people posted tweets saying the driver of the train involved in the accident was a man named Imtiaz Ali, by implication, a Muslim”, Firstpost.com says.
But firstpost.com points out “The” driver of the train involved in the Amritsar tragedy is Arvind Kumar.”
We live in an age where information and news can be accessed in seconds straight from our smart phones. Hundreds of television channels, running 24 x 7, keep sending out live updates on various issues, innumerable newspapers and magazines clutter the newsstands, and now with social media comprising Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, the flow of news has become part of the ‘speed era’ in which we live. Who knows how much of this is true and how much not? While we cannot wish away these technological developments, the least we, as responsible citizens of the nation and the world can do is to use social and other media more responsibly.
Media houses can be more responsible and not get carried away by fake news and make it ‘breaking news’ to just get their TRPs (television rating points) soaring high. Each journalist at his or her personal level can adopt ethical values of standing by truth and justice and not fall for sensational fake news. The burden falls on each individual to verify any news before impulsively pressing the forward button to share it with others.
As human beings, it also rests on us to be sensitive to the victims when any tragedy happens be it an accident or natural disasters. The focus should be on the pain and misery of the victims, rather than spending time reading fake news about it on social media. If we cannot do much to ease the victims’ pain, at least let’s not add to their pain through false propaganda.
It seems befitting to take some lessons through a Quranic verse from which we can draw a close parallel in our life that for many people has now become saturated by the social media. ‘Believers if a troublemaker brings you news, check it first, in case you wrong others unwittingly and later regret what you have done. God has endeared faith to you and made it beautiful to your hearts. He has made disbelief, mischief and disobedience hateful to you. God is all knowing and all wise’. (Quran 49-6-7)
This verse advises us to verify any news before we take action. Today it is more important than ever to follow this advice. Viruses developed to infect computers can damage hardware and infrastructure. Fake news and just plain lies also act like viruses that can damage the human mind and can corrupt our societies in a far more diabolical way.