Fake news or misinformation campaigns have been part of our eco system long before the social media came into our lives. Nations, armies and individuals have long used the propaganda wars to gain over political/ business adversaries.
The advent of social media has made running the ‘fake news campaigns’ much easier. One thing which most of are undeniably fast gaining expertise in is ‘forwarding the forwards’ on platforms like WhatsApp. Many just forward every post they get on their social media account. They do not even care to check if anyone else has already shared the same post in the group before them the same day.
Why the misinformation campaigns succeed?
There are experts who create ‘believable’ fake posts. They exploit three things; people’s love for gossip, their appetite for sensation and the domination of emotions in our lives. We all love spicy gossip and sensational news, don’t we?
Short, spicy and eye-catching headings are used to catch the mind of the reader and give it an authentic look. The facts are twisted/ distorted only to an extent so as to appear authentic.
The ‘fakers’ fully understand that an average user of social media does not much understand statistics hence selectively make use of numbers to confuse the mind.
Good use is made of imagination and news creators even go to the extent of adding fake references from books/ quotes from famous people.
Tools are available to prepare doctored images and videos to fool the subscribers. Even old videos are doctored to make them appear as new.
Most subscribers do not take make an effort to verify the authenticity of the posts from other sources before pressing the forward/ share button. This further helps the cause of the fake news developers. Even if someone cross checks and posts the correct version that is hardly forwarded.
Who spreads the fake news?
Fake news is spread by people for different reasons ranging from financial/ political gains to creating chaos. It is not just scamsters but politicians and celebrities too who indulge in mis-information campaigns for personal benefits.
How to spot fake news?
The first step is to always cross check the authenticity of any sensational news from any reputed News channel. If the News is authentic, it will be carried by some News channels, if not all.
Most fake news creators use standard phrases like ‘it happened with my cousin’, ‘sounds too good to be true’ or ‘share it before the channel deletes it’, ‘forwarded as received’ etc.
Normally the originator of the ‘News’ will not be traceable. The social media profile won’t provide much information.
The best way is always to make use of online fact checking websites to ascertain the truth.
Misinformation campaigns succeed because of ignorance and lackadaisical attitude of subscribers. Be smart, do not end up becoming a mere tool in the hands of ‘Misinformation’ campaign specialists. Do not be in a hurry to ‘forward a forward’ on social media sites specially the ones which sound too good to be true or are too sensational.
It is better still not to become member of unknown groups on social media platforms.
Well analysed and written sir. In past few years , I have deliberately decided to cut down on number of WhatsApp groups and in almost all the groups that I’m part of , I have become a silent member. It prevents me from this habit of forwarding unnecessary. Regards
Thank you Lalit..God bless you