“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”
– Emily Dickinson
Meghalaya chief minister, Conrad K Sangma while addressing a National Press day programme has expressed concern over fake news and rise of cyber crimes in this age of technology and urged media persons to perform their duty responsibly. Sangma defiantly feels that fake news is a new social monster that has posed a unique challenge for the police and society. The Meghalaya chief minister even stressed on the need to put in place mechanisms to deal with cyber crimes. While steps have been initiated to deal with terrorists seeding fake news through social media, it is critical that all stakeholders in society come together to tackle the menace and not allow it to spread its insidious tentacles. Though not a new phenomenon, with the fast and furious nature of the cyber world it has taken epidemic proportions. There is no denying that this (tackling misuse of social media) is a huge challenge for society at large, not confined to the Indian context only but across the world. Fake news is a new virus that crossed all borders and poses a grave risk for all, all the time.
It is a challenging time for everyone. In addition to new kinds of threats to society, fake news and social media related crimes are causing enormous strain and the powers that must be dealt with effectively. Fake news has become a new tool of personal, professional and political vendetta. The social media has acted as a soft conduit for fake news and its perpetrators to flourish. With the help of the internet, social media has created a rare hyper interconnectedness among people which in turn has fueled a surge in unwanted, false and misleading information causing a new disruption. One moment, a harmless musician and businessman duo in Assam are going about their normal daily lives. The next moment, a mob pulled them out of their car and lynched them to their deaths. This is a new incumbent landscape of fake news about child kidnappers. From Uttar Pradesh to Assam, from Jharkhand to Madhya Pradesh — all over the nation, many innocents have been lynched over fake child kidnapping news in the recent past. After each incident questions are regularly raised regarding the source of such child kidnapping news before forwarding them to the next of their kin. The June 8 mob lynching in Assam is a shameful demonstration of the epidemic that had gripped society (mankind) – fake news.
Several measures have come into place post the mob lynching in Assam over a fake child kidnapping news. The Assam Police has initiated several steps to curbing the spread of fake news including the use of the very medium that is often used to spread such fake news to spread awareness instead. It has enhanced its social media presence by initiating a special unit for cyber patrolling called ‘Nagarik Mitra’. India is WhatsApp’s largest market and of late it has been responding with a series of unprecedented interventions to curb sharing on the app. But besides government pressure, consumers will have to demonstrate the desire to fight fake news. It has to be a people’s movement.