In a social media-driven generation, most of us at some point have shared fake or half-true news on our timelines. Sitting before our desktops or scrolling down our mobile phones, we accept any news that is thrown at us without question, especially when it is shared by relatively credible media houses or public personalities. We have an expectation that what we read is true.
However, not all that we read is true. Too many news stories these days are fake, half-true, planted or outdated.
The problem of fake news is becoming a crisis in India, especially when credible media houses with millions of readers widely share such false stories.
Here is a breakdown of fake/false news, mainstream media misreporting, and public personalities spreading misinformation in the last two weeks.
1) Home Ministry uses image of Spain-Morocco border to show floodlighting on Indian border
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its annual report, used a foreign border to claim that it had installed floodlights in border areas. The Ministry used an image of the Spain-Morocco border too depict India’s border.
2) Sambit Patra shares a false tweet to accuse NDTV of an “agenda”
BJP Spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted an article by The Times of Islamabad which said that “data by NDTV” showed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make In India initiative was a “flop show”.
Hmmm …Agenda!! https://t.co/4XmexwonMN
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) June 11, 2017
Fake story, also does not refer anywhere to NDTV. We are wrongly named in headline and URL. Please issue a clarification.
— NDTV (@ndtv) June 11, 2017
— Times of lsIamabad (@TimesofIslambad) June 11, 2017
Jumping on The Times of Islamabad’s tweet, Patra quoted the same by saying “Agenda”, a reference to his appearance on NDTV earlier this month where he was asked to leave the panel discussion after accusing the channel of having an “agenda”.
In reality, however, the Pakistani news portal had incorrectly sourced NDTV when its actual source was an article by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in The Indian Express.
Patra is yet to delete his tweet or issue clarifications on the same.
3) No, Australian cricketer Brett Lee and his wife did not convert to Hinduism
Australian cricketer Brett Lee was recently in Mumbai to promote music therapy in a venture with St Jude’s Childcare Centre.
He was photographed with his wife, wearing garlands, and certain pages online portrayed the couple as having embraced Hinduism. A post by a fake BJP page claiming that the couple had converted to Hinduism garnered over 25,000 likes and nearly 2,000 shares (more on Hoax Slayer).
ब्रेट ली और लाना एंडरसन हमने सनातन धर्म अपनाया है क्या आप हमारा हिन्दू धर्म मे स्वागत करेंगे ..??
4) Nirmala Sitharaman retweets an image depicting AR Rahman saying something he never said
Sitharaman retweeted a widely shared image depicting AR Rahman welcoming the “initiatives taken by the central government to curb cow slaughter”.
Rahman never said those words.
To her credit, Sitharaman undid her retweet and stated that “this seems unverified information”.
. @sgurumurthy, FYI : I am undoing my RT as this seems unverified information. Sorry about any confusion.
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) June 10, 2017
5) Allegations that Aligarh Muslim University was not providing food to non-Muslim students during Ramadan proved false
After a tweet by Prashant Patel Umrao, a Delhi High Court advocate, was shared widely, a rumour spread that the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was not serving food to Hindus during the month of Ramadan. This sparked a divisive debate online.
— Prashant Patel Umrao (@ippatel) May 29, 2017
However, after The Quint approached AMU authorities, it was revealed that the information was false. The University provides food to both non-Muslims and non-fasting Muslims during Ramadan – as it had been for decades.
6) Photo of Col DK Rai, who passed away in March, was posted in reference to recent Gorkhaland Protest
The protest for a separate state, Gorkhaland, has been going on in Darjeeling for the past one week.
Amidst this unrest, Delhi HC advocate Prashant Patel Umrao shared a 2008 image of Col DK Rai of the Gorkha Rifles being attacked by the police.
Umrao claimed that this was an image of Col Rai being lathi-charged during the ongoing protests. However, Col Rai passed away three months ago. As reported by The Quint, he was, however, attacked by the police during the Gorkhaland protest in 2008. And contrary to social media fury against Mamata that followed the post, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, the veteran CPI(M) leader, was the chief minister of West Bengal when Col Rai was attacked.
The Logical Indian take
This week, we had politicians and political spokespersons spreading false stories and propaganda. These instances included a case where an individual exploited the image of a late soldier to score political points. A major embarrassment when an official government report depicted a foreign border as our own. Another takeaway is how we can respond when we are rightly called out for sharing fake news: While Nirmala Sitharaman deleted her retweet of the fake AR Rahman quote and issued a clarification on the same, Sambit Patra is yet to delete his misinformed tweet, let alone issue a clarification.
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.