“Fake news is completely false information, photos or videos, intentionally created and spread, to confuse the public, spread mass panic, provoke violence and get attention,” this is what is written on one of the slides of a power point presentation being shown to students at Amritha Vidyalayam in Kannur as reported by Beebom. Amritha Vidyalaya is one of the 150 government schools in Kannur district of Kerala which is waging a fight against fake news. This initiative “Satyamev Jayate is the brainchild of Kannur District Collector, Mir Mohammed Ali.
Over the last few months, several people have been lynched over suspicion of being child traffickers. This suspicion and paranoia among the people have been created by fake WhatsApp forwards. Also, the recent Kerala floods-related many fake news are also being circulated. While not much progress has been made to curb this menace of fake news, Kannur district in Kerala has taken a very appreciable step in this direction.
District collector of Kannur, Mir Mohammed Ali has started a unique initiative “Satyamev Jayate” (Truth alone triumphs). This initiative aims at educating school children about what is fake news, how is it dangerous and what can be done to curb the same.
“It is basically a training program for students to inculcate certain characteristics in them, to impart certain values in them. We want to encourage them to be more sceptic about the kind of information which is available on the internet and how to differentiate between what is true, what is false”, Mr Ali told The Logical Indian in an interview in July.
How seriously Kannur takes fake news can be established from the fact that a person was actually arrested for spreading a fake message about Nipah virus when the endemic broke out.
Mr Ali believes that people need to invest in truth. He said, “We have to take sides here and being neutral is not an option when people around you are spreading fake news. If you are neutral, it means you are automatically siding with the false narrative.”
Recalling an incident from last year when there was a Rubella vaccination drive but parents refused to get their children vaccinated because of a fake news, he said, “A fake message was floating around that time which said that if they get their daughters vaccinated, in future they will not be able to bear children. Actually, the opposite is true, when you don’t get the vaccination, the chances of stillbirths increase.”
The program targets students of classes 8th-12th. “The was inaugurated on June 13. We have one teacher each from 150 government school in the district. These teachers would undergo month-long training and they would then go back and teach their students the same. In fact, we have already conducted a half day training for the teachers.” The program was implemented over the month of July.
Reiterating the importance of identifying fake news
The program teaches children two things, “We explain to them the concept of filter bubble, telling them that if you spend a lot of time on the internet, you will start encountering news that favours your point of view. For example, you tend to believe all the good things about the person you like and believe all the false news about the person you don’t like. We use this to teach the children that people might try to take advantage of this sentiment.”
The second thing what the program tries to address is clickbait. “We teach them what is clickbait and how it is detrimental.”
These points are put across in a very innovative way. “We have few exercises like we give students an example of a piece of fake news and ask them what they would do upon receiving such fake news”, Mr Ali said.
The program basically lays down a few pointers for students to check whether an information received by them is false or genuine. “They are asked to check for the source of the information. Students are also encouraged to politely ask the sender for the source of information. If the sender fails to furnish this information, we ask the students to find out the correct information and post it there. This way at least in that space we are able to tackle fake news.”
Mr Ali also spoke about the tendency of people to send new or exciting information, without checking its authenticity. “In one of the sessions, I called out a student and asked the class that if there is news that the particular student has fought with the collector, what would you do? Students responded that they would pass on this message. Then I asked them if they would do the same if it involved them, they said no, they would like people to first authenticate the information. I asked them, why the hypocrisy?”
In the future, the program will include even more schools. The authorities even plan on educating the parents on the same. “We have already started building material in Malayalam so that it reaches a wider set of people.”
The Logical Indian applauds Mr Ali on this wonderful initiative and we hope that such programs are widely introduced to defeat the evil that fake news has become.