India and the world is grappling with the problem of fake news, that has not only destabilised the basic foundations of the society but also created a sense of fear among the public. In the last few years, social media has become the forest while fake news is the wildfire that spreads across the forest and causes irreversible damage. Almost every other day, there is a news that due to a viral Facebook post or WhatsApp message some or the other person has been attacked by a mob or lynched to death. In recent times, the number of incidents have increased and become too frequent, with a 32-year old engineer attacked by an angry mob in Karnataka on the suspicion of being a kidnapper became a victim of mob maddness. Such incidents not only traumatise the society but also leaves it petrified.
Fake news destabilising the Indian society
In today’s India there is a vigilante mob misguided by the fake news and perpetrated lies, waiting at every nook and corner in the country to unleash the hatred that has been ingrained in them through lies. WhatsApp forwards and messages are circulated among groups and individuals without even verifying. Indian society has been known for its all-inclusive nature, compassion, and tolerance throughout the course of history but looking at the current trend all that is visible is the total opposite of all these core values that made India so special. The fake news trend has damaged the social fabric of the country, where every community be it religious or caste-based is up in arms against the people from other communities.
Government’s inactivity in tackling the situation
Apart from condoling the incidents and asking authorities to look into the matter, the government has mostly remained silent in tackling the situation, as fear among the society keeps on growing. Till now, the government be it state or central, have failed to curb the menace of fake news being circulated in such large numbers and the impact it has on the society. In the last two months, 20 such incidents of mob attacks and lynchings have surfaced from different corners of the country, it shows the level of madness that has entrenched the Indian society, especially in the remotest places of the country. Instead of coming up with consolidated plans to curb the growing atrocities and spread of fake news, Indian authorities have been quick to blame WhatsApp and other social media platforms, while still not willing to address the issue from their end. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has asked the Parliament to formulate a separate law to deal with the problem of lynching, as it has become a prevalent issue due to spread of fake news.
WhatsApp’s fight against ‘Fake News’
In order to deal with the issue of fake news on its platform, WhatsApp published an advertisement across several newspaper guiding the readers to verify if a news is true or not. The ‘easy tips’ provided by WhatsApp is a handy guide for its more than 200 million users in India to tackle the menace of fake news. It asked users not to trust every forward message they receive and instead carefully understand the objective that the message wants to serve. The messaging app even asked users not to believe in videos or images shared on WhatsApp, as these can be doctored to incite hatred within the users against that particular individual or community. The users need to understand that these lies are being perpetrated to serve a larger objective of communalising and dividing the communities.