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What is Fake News and How it Impacts You

27 April, 2018

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Most of us have grown up in a time when the best possible news source used to be the newspaper that arrived every morning in our homes. Then came the advent of TV, and there used to be one or two news bulletins in a day. The agenda of the news bulletins, mostly Doordarshan, would be to convey news and be done with it. Then came the TV blitzkrieg, as well as the 24 * 7 news channels, and alongside happened the digital social media explosion.

So, suddenly, we find that we are drowning in too much of news, all through the day. Constant debates with panellists from various parties are a common scene on every news channel. All this is good, if only we were sure about what we are being told or what we get to read. Recently, there have been many fake news concerns which even the Government took note of. The issue is that at times, few anti-social elements, deliberately, create or spread the fake news with malicious intentions. So, what constitutes fake news?

Understanding fake news

Typically, when some people create or share unverified, news, especially on social media, with a deliberate intention to create unrest, or malign famous people, leaders, institutions, or organisations or even a community or religion, etc., it will be termed as fake news. The instant nature of social media adds to the fast spreading of this news, and there have been instances, when unrest has been created in the country, merely because of fake news.

Most people are unable to verify the news and hence, fall prey to it and react or respond, and therefore the fake story gets more attention than it should. As responsible citizens of this country, we need to figure out if the news is fake and forward or share only such reports where we are sure about its authenticity. So, how do we know if a news item is fake?

How to figure out if news or an article is fake?

Check the source, the publisher, the author, the website, etc. of the news item. Check if the same news item is being seen on other important mainstream news sites as well. Check who has shared it and if the person is trustworthy or not. Verify if the same author has other published articles that are relevant and true.

Usually, original and authentic articles will always have references to some people or proper websites. They will quote valid sources that you can check out easily. Also, generally, the language used will be highly professional. Most fake news articles have language issues, but all well-written articles need not be true as well. Following a few simple steps like this can help you figure out if the material is fake. This is even applicable to WhatsApp messages, which also get forwarded without any verification.

How does it impact you?

There are two ways in which fake news can impact you. One is the fact that the news may be about something or someone that you really care about. So, it may distress you, when actually there is no need for that. If the news is political or social, you may choose to discuss it with your family and friends’ circles. This can lead to some minor arguments, and leave a bad taste among friends. And all this for nothing, as the news was fake anyway. Many times false medical snippets are forwarded and following them may even be damaging to your health.

Secondly, when others receive the fake news forwarded by you, you will lose your credibility as well. It is entirely possible; a few others will always verify the news on their own, or know better. So, when they constantly receive fake news from your end, they may tag you as someone who is deliberately doing it for malicious reasons.

There are also legal implications of sharing fake news, especially if any unrest, riots, or issues are associated with it. Hence, when one forward or share any such sensitive news item, it has to be with a full sense of responsibility. You may be held liable for it as well.

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