The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa was taken ill with fever and dehydration on the 22nd of September, 2016. The 68-year-old AIADMK leader was admitted to the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai. Amid secrecy, speculation and mounting rumours, a statement was at last issued by the office of the acting Governor of Tamil Nadu, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, saying that the Governor had been briefed by the chairman of the hospital on the treatment being given to Jayalalithaa.
Subbiah Viswanathan, Chief Operating Officer of Apollo Hospitals also issued a statement on Friday saying that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was responding well to the treatment and had been advised a few days stay for recuperative treatment.
Baseless WhatsApp Rumours
The past 10 days have been wrought with rumours with anyone and everyone with a smartphone seemingly having inside information on the status of CM Jayalalithaa’s health! WhatsApp as well as social media carried regular health bulletins from the day of her admission into the hospital with details regarding Tamil Nadu CM’s medical diagnosis, to vital parameters, to the date of her discharge. The messages seemed very authentic since there were medical terminologies thrown in, and thus people just forwarded the messages without verifying their authenticity.
Matters came to head when the rumours of the progress of CM Jayalalithaa’s health took a turn for the worse and message regarding her being serious, on a ventilator and even having died started doing the rounds. A photo of a woman on a ventilator in an ICU, supposedly Jayalalithaa, went viral on WhatsApp and other social platforms. Tension mounted even more because the people of Tamil Nadu had not seen their beloved leader in more than a week. Panic and fear spread across the State of Tamil Nadu with a few IT companies even sending the employees home early for the fear of riots.
The Tricks by the Opposition
The opposition did not help with Karunanidhi demanding a photograph of Jayalalithaa, which the AIDMK refused to share or publish. To make matters worse, the opposition then accessed the Wikipedia page of CM Jayalalithaa and started editing the information and proclaimed her “Dead!” One user even had the audacity to proclaim the date of death as the 1st of October, 2016. The Chennai police are taking the accusations seriously and FIRs have been filed against those proclaiming Jayalalithaa’s death.
WhatsApp: When Sensationalism is more Important than Truth
Ad hoc journalism through WhatsApp has snatched away the glory of one of the most significant services since the introduction of print media. WhatsApp is just a cesspool of lies, rumours and baseless facts and figures, which, unfortunately, people without even confirming or verifying proceed to forward to family and friends.
The propagators are the Naradas of Kaliyuga, who for a few moments of glory are ready to spread news full of sensationalism, but unfortunately news that are baseless and false. Morphed and photoshopped photographs, and even a video of the floor where the CM is supposed to have a room in the Apollo Hospitals, have gone viral in the past few days, thanks to these Naradas.
But the disappointing part of this entire episode is the reaction of the public. The public seems to have fallen hook, line and sinker to the false reports. They have not deemed it necessary to verify the information received on WhatsApp, or for that matter even social media, and have just gone ahead spreading the rumours further. And we are not talking about illiterate people here. Most of the people who helped in spreading the rumours regarding the worsening condition of Amma’s health as well her death are sensible and literate people.
This is not a first case scenario. Even during the floods in Chennai the previous year in December, there were rumours that were spread regarding the situation in the city, again through WhatsApp.
And worse still, sometimes old, false stories start doing the rounds again causing panic. Last week the following message, which was initially released 2 years ago, again did rounds causing panic among people.
Guys CHENNAI IS ON HIGH ALERT NOW!!! NASA has warned INDIA tat CHENNAI will suffer ah very very high rainfall with a hurricane !!! NASA has given 2 dates 21,22 …on these 2 days unpredictable rainfall in the history of INDIA will lash tamilnadu …the rainfall will be about 250 cm in CHENNAI!!! So indian central gov has now deployed 3000 NDRF to tamilnadu and border security force and airforce and army on the toes….!! NASA’s prediction never miss….! Watch CNN IBN they r telecasting the live show….!!
Leaving Chennai behind, when we speak about the recent terrorist attacks in Uri, WhatsApp again was wrought with false facts, figures and information. The worse is that sometimes, WhatsApp even succeeds in divulging information that are true, top secret, and sensitive, which, if it falls into the false hands, will result in further death and destruction.
Some False but Hilarious Messages doing a Regular Round of WhatsApp
- A forward with picture of apples with a promise that if forwarded to a certain number of people, it will change the colour of the apples to red.
- A forward with picture of lightning emoticon with a promise that when forwarded, it will charge the phone.
- Information regarding blood of an HIV positive factory worker having been mixed with a batch of Frooti, which if consumed, would result in the person drinking the frooti contracting the diease!
Some of these messages are so gross, and so hilarious, that one does wonder that how can a literate person, instead of just pressing the delete button, forward to family and friends. Unfortunately, some messages also spread panic among the public.
Let’s Be Sensible
There is no doubt in the fact that Technology has changed the lives of the human beings on earth. But if not used responsibly and carefully, the same technology can also transform from a boon to a curse. It is time to be responsible. It is time to act with a sense of maturity. It is time to not allow ourselves to be carried away by baseless rumours. Let’s verify the information that we receive. It is time to learn to filter the information received and retain only the truth.
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