Making up news stories to fool or entertain the public is not a new trend. There are hundreds of fake news websites out there, many of which deliberately imitate credible newspapers in format and design, and trend misinformation. The hoax published by such websites gets social media attention and is then picked up by other sites. A chain reaction takes place and the hoax is published and proliferated everywhere.
This ultimately leads to the inability to verify the authenticity of the published reports. The potential to cause damage becomes more powerful over time. It reinforces people’s beliefs and falsely confirms their prejudices.
With the rising popularity of social media news, fake news creators are becomingly increasingly successful at creating viral stories. These are stories that are either entirely false or half-truths.
Below are four of the most viral false/fake news stories of this week.
“Najeeb Ahmad Searched For Ways To Join ISIS Before He Went Missing.”
27-year-old Najeeb Ahmad, a first-year MSc student at the School of Biotechnology in JNU, has been missing from the campus since October 15.
According to reports, Najeeb had gotten into an alleged scuffle with three members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) outside his room at the Mahi-Mandvi Hostel. It has been alleged that he was kidnapped by ABVP members. ABVP has, however, denied any involvement in his disappearance.
The Times of India carried a front-page report by journalist Raj Shekhar Jha which claimed that an analysis of Ahmad’s laptop revealed he was browsing information on how to join ISIS a day before he went missing.
Any association with ISIS has not come up in Delhi Police's investigation: Dependra Pathak, Chief Spox Delhi Police on Najeeb Ahmed Case pic.twitter.com/H63Wk4NAaw
— ANI (@ANI_news) March 21, 2017
Dependra Pathak, Delhi Police spokesperson, clarified saying that the investigation into the case of Ahmad has not found any link to ISIS. Civil society groups and students have demanded an unconditional apology from The Times Of India for carrying out a malicious report. You can read the full report here.
“BBC named the Indian National Congress as one of the ten most corrupt parties ever.”
The Indian National Congress.
BBC News Point, a fake news site falsely portraying itself as BBC News, declared that the Indian National Congress was named the 4th most corrupt political party in world by BBC. The report went viral and many Facebook Pages and Twitter handle spread the news without verifying it and people fell to it.
#सुनो_गौर_से_दुनिया_वालो Indian National Congress Is The 4th Most Corrupt Political Party In The World. Brings Shame To India.
RT & Spread! pic.twitter.com/Xh4PvxfvEA
— Sir Ravindra Jadeja (@SirJadeja) March 20, 2017
There is no actual news. The BBC has no list of most corrupt political parties in the world. The news went viral and BBC Journalist Geeta Pandey clarified on it.
— GeetaPandeyBBC (@geetapandeyBBC) March 20, 2017
“Yogi Adityanath bans the use of gutka in government offices in UP.”
UP CM Yogi Adityanath.
That Adityanath issued a ban on the use of gutka, paan parag, and paan in government offices, hospitals, and educational institutions with immediate effect.
Gutka was banned in UP in April 1, 2013 (source). However, the problem has always been implementation of the ban – as it is in other states in India where gutka has been banned. A more accurate title for this week’s articles would have been “Yogi Adityanath Reinforces Ban On Gutka.”
“Govt. Says Women Employees Fighting Sexual Harassment Will Get 90 Days’ Paid Leave.”
The central government’s employees.
From this year, women employees of the central government who file complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace will get 90 days’ paid leave during the pendency of the inquiry under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The same news was doing rounds last year on July 17 (source). The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, has issued a gazette again in this regard on 15th March, 2017. The Logical Indian also published the news with the above information.
No matter how unimportant or irrelevant a fake news is, it shouldn’t be acceptable and is not permissible. Even a fake news suits to our prejudices, we shouldn’t spread it. Social media is a tool which should empower citizens not dumb down them.