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New media has presented the challenge of credibility

  • Published
    17th Nov, 2022
Context

While addressing the first World Media Congress in Abu Dhabi, the Information and Broadcasting Secretary mentioned the shift towards new media for consuming information by users from traditional sources such as newspapers has presented a challenge to the credibility of the government.

Background
  • India has over 2 billion mobile phone users and 600 million smartphone users who are consuming a high amount of information and entertainment via mobile devices. 
  • The traditional media sources in India comprised 897 television channels and over 80,000 newspapers in various languages.
  • Social media has caused faster and deeper percolation of information in India.
About

Why social media is preferred so much?

  • Immediate circulation: Social media has also allowed news to be accessed in real-time, for instance just seconds after a big event happens.
  • Faster: It is often faster than any traditional news outlet.
  • Easy participation: Allowing Traditional media is no longer a one-way avenue of communication: now, consumers can participate in the conversation and influence the news.

 

 

Social Media

 

Traditional Media

Audience

Social media typically reaches a smaller, more tailored audience.

Typically, traditional media can help businesses reach a broad audience. 

Cost

Far less expensive

Comparatively expensive

Interaction

Social media marketing is a two-way street.

One-way communication

Time

Marketing through digital media is immediate

Traditional media can take up more time.

Risk

Higher level of flexibility and is less risky. 

No flexibility

Trust

Influential, Less trust (fake news)

Comparatively trusted sources

Social Media and Fake news:

  • Fake news is news, stories, or hoaxes created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers. Fake news, defined by the New York Times as “a made-up story with an intention to deceive”
  • Usually, these stories are created to influence people’s views, push a political agenda or cause confusion and can often be a profitable business for online publishers.
  • Fake news stories can deceive people by looking like trusted websites or using similar names and web addresses to reputable news organizations.
  • There are three elements to fake news; Mistrust, misinformation, and manipulation.

Popular Fake Examples from India:

    • Muzzafarnagar riots of 2013: fake video fuelled communal passions
    • UNESCO has declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ the best national anthem in the world (WhatsApp)
    • Dying Woman Molested, Video shows (The Hindu Newspaper)
    • Fatwa in Saudi Arabia; Men can eat wives when hungry (AajTak)
    • GPS tracking nanochip in 2000 Rupee notes (Nov 2016)
    • Child kidnapping rumors lead to lynchings by a mob in Jharkhand
    • Missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed has joined the ISIS
Analysis

Causes for Rise in Fake News:

  • Internet and Social media: Many people now get news from social media sites and networks and often it can be difficult to tell whether stories are credible or not. Social media sites can play a big part in increasing the reach of these types of stories.
  • Lack of Checking Authenticity: Everyone is busy in sharing/liking/commenting on news items without checking the authenticity of the news.
  • No codes of practice for Social Media: Traditionally we got our news from trusted sources, journalists and media outlets that are required to follow strict codes of practice. However, the internet has enabled a whole new way to publish, share and consume information and news with very little regulation or editorial standards.
  • Stratified Organization of Fake News: Fake news is no longer being considered a rare or isolated phenomenon, but appears to be organized and shrewdly disseminated to a target population. It is believed that the a high possibility of these organized bodies coming into existence with the help of political influence.
  • Vernacular Social Media Platforms: The immense popularity of vernacular social media platforms in India is exploited for the spread of fake news.

Laws Governing Fake News in India:

  • There is no specific law against fake news in India. Free publication of news flows from Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
  • Press Council of India, a regulatory body, can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor, or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.
  • News Broadcasters Association (NBA) represents private television news and current affairs broadcasters. The self-regulatory body probes complaints against electronic media.
  • Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF)also looks into the complaints against content aired by channels.
  • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC) admits complaints against TV broadcasters for objectionable TV content and fake news.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC) has certain sections which could curb fake news: Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and section 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) can be invoked to guard against fake news.
  • Civil or Criminal Cases for Defamation are another resort against fake news for individuals and groups hurt by the fake news. IPC 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 a fine, or with both) provide for a defamation suit.

Threats posed by Fake News:

  • Political: Political parties try to gain political advantages by polarizing the voter’s mind which further intensifies the tensions between different sections of society.
  • Economic: As communal tendencies emerge in politics due to the spread of fake news economic development has taken a back seat. The problems faced by the problems are not solved by the government.
  • Society: It can disturb the social fabric of society and tensions among communities persists for a long time. It can lead to violence between two or more communities thereby creating enmity and hatred between them. It reduces the tendency of cooperation between different communities.
  • International: Deep fakes are used by countries to target other countries and bring chaos or desired political changes. China and Russia are using deep fakes to target hostile countries to gain political and trade benefits.
  • Faith in Media: People’s faith in social, print, and electronic media reduces which could affect the benefits of these Media as well the spirit of democracy as media is the fourth estate of democracy. In its purest form, fake news is completely made up and manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue.

Recent Government Initiatives:

  • Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • The Fact Check Unit under the Press Information Bureau takes cognizance of fake news both Cuomo and by way of queries sent by citizens on its portal or through e-mail and Whatsapp.
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