Fake news refers to fabricated, sensationalized information that is spread through various mass communication channels such as print media, electronic media, and social media.
The impact of fake news on the internal security of the country can be understood in the following ways:
Threat to national security and law and order:
- The rapid spread of fake news poses a challenge to the law and order situation in the country. For instance, fake news about dacoity and child abduction in Kokrajhar created panic and disrupted public order.
- Fake news can manipulate religious sentiments and incite communal hatred by morphing videos of religious leaders.
- Fake news can be exploited to fuel racial hatred and xenophobia, as seen in the dissemination of rumors about attacks on people from northeastern India in Bangalore.
Threat to sovereignty and integrity:
- Fake news often supports the agendas of secessionists and insurgents. Disinformation and fake news regarding Kashmir, for example, can undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.
- Foreign interests hostile to national interests can misuse fake news to further their own agendas. China spreading fake news about Arunachal Pradesh is an example of such misuse.
Threat to electoral democracy:
- Fake news has the potential to manipulate public opinion and influence the electoral process. Instances such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal and allegations of Russian influence in the US Presidential elections highlight this threat.
- Fake news can be used to destabilize the financial environment, leading to economic disruptions. For instance, rumors about GPS chips embedded in 2000 rupee notes can create panic and financial instability.
- Hindrance in disaster and pandemic management:
- Fake news acts as an obstacle in effectively managing disasters and pandemics. Misinformation about the effects of Covid-19 vaccines, for example, can hinder vaccination efforts and public health measures.
To ensure timely identification and control of fake news, the following measures are necessary:
- Technological leverage: Leveraging technology, such as conducting forensic audits of controversial videos and audios, can aid in the timely identification of fake news.
- Citizen involvement: Citizens need to actively participate in identifying fake news by adopting a critical mindset, checking publication dates and times, and crosschecking information from multiple sources.
- Intervention by significant social media intermediaries (SSMI): SSMIs should employ AI-based interventions to identify and address fake news, as well as news that incites racial or communal tensions.
- Government initiatives: The government should play an active role in identifying fake news through initiatives like fact-checking platforms such as PIB Fact Check in India, “Stopfake.org” in Europe, and “Factually” in Singapore.
Once fake news is identified, the spread can be controlled through the following measures:
- Implementation of IT Rules: The Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, 2021, provide regulations for significant social media intermediaries, including identifying the originator of information, ensuring compliance with government regulations, establishing grievance redressal mechanisms, and regulating news and current affairs content.
- Temporary internet service suspension: In sensitive regions, temporary suspension of internet services can be considered to prevent loss of life and property, as seen in the example of internet services being withdrawn in Udaipur after a beheading incident to prevent communal tensions.
- Social deterrence: Alongside legal deterrence, creating social awareness and encouraging individuals to avoid falling into negativity bias can help mitigate the impact of fake news.
- Public awareness campaigns: Raising public awareness against fake news, such as through programs like “Satyameva Jayate” in Kannur schools, can contribute to combating misinformation.
- Media self-regulation: Media organizations, including print, electronic, and social media, should take responsibility for verifying information and establish dedicated platforms to counter fake news. Initiatives like “Fact Check Explorer” by Google and “Webqoof” by The Quint exemplify such efforts.
It is crucial to address the issue of fake news, which often stems from yellow and tabloid journalism focused on sensationalism and increased viewership. Collaborative efforts are necessary to tackle this problem in the interest of the nation.