Social media has become a virtual world where we spend most of our time. This virtual world and its trends, create influence and have an unwavering impact on our real world. What we eat, how we workout, whose ideals we follow and what concerns, worries or motivates us, almost everything is influenced by what we see online.

But how sure are we of the facts which govern our life decisions?

It is vital, now more than ever, to smell the rat. Real news at the right time can inform and educate but on the flip side, fake or erroneous news can lead to creating chaos in the society.

We live in an insanely powerful digital age where one tweet from a leader of a developed nation impacts the socio-economic conditions in other countries and even sways the stock-market worldwide.

So how can we protect ourselves and others?

Faith on the Source – The source of the news is as important as the news itself. Fake news , if coming from a trusted source, will be well received and immediately acted upon. This leads to the creation of a vicious circle of fake news. Instances of ‘celebrity deaths’ comes to mind, where a celebrity is declared dead even though he is not.

The world is currently facing an unprecedented encounter with COVID-19 and is still grappling around to attain normalcy. This time has been tagged as ‘infodemic’ by the World Health Organization. During this time, the news generated in many parts of the world led to many questions being raised on free and responsible journalism, constitutional rights of citizens as well as legislative framework to establish right control. A lot of misinformation has been generated regarding possible Covid-19 cures including promotion of medicine and practices not recommended by health care professionals.

A billboard incorrectly stating that hot weather kills the virus

Fake news has also swirled around the Black Lives Matter protests happening worldwide. Quite dangerously, misrepresented quotes, doctored videos and inflammatory rhetoric has been spread. This has contributed to partisanship and made it harder for people to come together for a common solution.

Currently in India there are legislative provisions which come into play only at times of adversity. In such times, spread of untrue and fake information becomes an offensive crime leading to imprisonment.

Question still remains, shouldn’t there be a common law governing fake news? A law which gives free will to access or generate news with a caveat to check the veracity of the news.

Journalism has to be viewed as a civic profession, shouldering great public welfare responsibility, and media houses and press units should strive to excel at the same.

Fake news impact our lives every day. Identifying the difference between real and fake news and breaking the chain of fake news is an act we have to do on day-to-day basis. A few basic checks that each individual should follow are:

  1. Look for source mentioned at the end of an article irrespective of the new agency or press unit publishing it;
  2. Test the integrity of the new agency overtime;
  3. For any news obtained from ‘Whatsapp university’ do a check via google search;
  4. Do not become a creator of fake news.

Be alert of the news that you feed on and even more vigilant about the one that you pass on.

Next time before you forward any information, Wait. Think. Verify. Then forward.