Fake news has been a term which has been used quite a lot in the recent past, in the right or not so ways. The gap between reality and what is generated on the “so-called” social media platforms brings out the cause of why people engage with fake news.
“FAKE NEWS ALERT: WhatsApp message on WHO lockdown protocol for COVID-19 in India. WHO would like to clarify that a FAKE message is being circulated on social media stating that it has released a four-step protocol and procedure for lockdown in India. WHO has NOT issued any such advisory or protocol.” (World Health Organisation)
Initially in March, due to the outbreak of the Pandemic in India, the above fake message was being circulated all over social media and it was out there so much that an official announcement on the website of WHO had to be posted to make the matters clear. But what really is Fake News and how is it supposed to affect us?
Fake news has been a term which has been used quite a lot in the recent past, in the right or not so ways. The gap between reality and what is generated on the “so-called” social media platforms brings out the cause of why people engage with fake news. The youth, in particular, has been absorbing a lot of this information from social media, be it in the form of a ten tabloid Instagram post or a random link on Facebook. The information might not be wrong entirely but in most of the cases is incomplete. This further gives rise to the dissemination of misinformation.
From the past several months the world has been witnessing a deadly outbreak of the COVID 19 virus. The rise of fake news during the pandemic has been unusually high, which has led the doctors, other health advisors, media persons, and other fact-checkers to strive continuously for providing the people with the correct information upon the disease.
According to Boom, a fact-checker digital media platform, a majority of the bogus or misleading claims were disseminated with video recordings (35%), there was likewise a critical number of instant messages (29.4%) being shared concerning the cures to the virus, medicines or statements from famous people, alongside pictures (29.4%) that were either distorted or doctored. Apart from this, the most shocking part was the circulation of audio notes which were mostly said to be by informed professionals but in reality, they were absolutely false and were being highly circulated through various social media platforms.
A documentary by the New York Times, ‘Operation Infektion’, makes us as the receivers of such news wonder the core behind the idea of the generation of what we call it as ‘Fake News’. It specifies that there are Seven Commandments for the generation of a perfect lie. These commandments are-
STEP 1- Looking for cracks or loopholes within society. This step sets up the basis for the idea of fake news to revolve around.
STEP 2- Based on the crack, create the ‘Big Lie’. Something so shocking that nobody can even think that it is made up.
STEP 3- Wrapping the Lie in a Kernel of Truth, since a bit of truth may work as a catalyst to the misinformation that we sought to circulate.
STEP 4- Conceal your hand, make it look like you have no involvement with the story, and that the story came from somewhere else.
STEP 5- Finding a ‘Useful Idiot’, a person who unknowingly but willingly would want to push your idea further.
STEP 6- Deny! Deny! Deny! When the truth is out there, deny everything.
STEP 7- Play the long game – endeavours probably won't prove to be fruitful for quite a long time, yet gathered over a more extended timeframe they will inevitably have a political effect.
This seven-step process has been used quite a lot unknowingly during the pandemic to spread misinformation everywhere. This information seems to be travelling much faster than the virus itself.
Social Media- The Final Destination
Even before the nation reported its first case on 30 January, Indian social media was overflowing with counterfeit posts, wild bits of gossip, paranoid fears, doctored recordings about the origin of the virus, its resulting spread and potential cures. When the nation began revealing more cases, a series of false messages started populating all significant web-based media stages, especially Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
Initially, one of the primary conspicuous texts was about home cures of Vitamin C preventing the infection. In such a manner, a few recordings began flowing in the name of notable specialist Devi Shetty prescribing individuals to take boiling water with lemon juice to improve insusceptibility.
Indeed, even before the fact-checking destinations exposed this, a huge number of false messages including infectious and engaging recordings advancing the wonder intensity of Gaumutra (Cow’s Urine), to prevent the virus started to appear on most noticeable social media pages. Advanced by certain Pro-Hindutva associations, this fake news/message made numerous individuals fall into deceptions and to everyone’s surprise, several Gaumatra drinking parties were being organised in several areas. Because of this India’s top Medical Research Body released information for the general public stating the false nature of the news. Also, the specialists gave warnings to web-based media and print media houses to stop from spreading gossipy tidbits as April Fools' jokes identified with the pandemic.
This was one of the most disastrous news that was circulated all around, questioning an entire community to be the blazers of the virus. Various fake recordings started spreading over WhatsApp and other web-based media stages portraying the gathering as "Corona Villains" (ORF 2020). A noticeable video which guaranteed that a few Muslims from Indonesia at Salem mosque in Tamil Nadu were purposely licking kitchen things to "purposefully spread the novel Covid" was exposed by AltNews, a fact-checking website which credited the old video to the Dawoodi Bohra people group licking clean the utensils to guarantee that not even a single food grain was wasted.
The Target Audience
According to the sources, the main victims of the online fake news are the ‘Generation Y’ people also known as the Millennials. They are the people who are very active members of Facebook and Whatsapp and are generally seen circulating the false messages unknowingly through their personal portals.
"Fake news feels like the second pandemic.”
A very prominent example of this was during all the hue and cry created during the Sushant Singh Rajput’s murder case, where a series of fake messages were being circulated in various forms on social media. These messages were believed to be true by the Millennials and they were seen circulating it further on their groups or club pages. One major reason why they believed in all these messages was the fact that they were being circulated continuously. These people were being continuously poked with these texts.
Here comes in the communication theory which proves this fact that how these people unintentionally resort to believing what they were being continuously shown. The theory is the Hypodermic Needle Theory. The Hypodermic Needle Theory is a one-way communication hypothesis which proposes that media messages are infused directly into the cerebrums of a passive crowd. It recommends that we're in no way different and we as a whole react to media messages similarly. Similarly, these messages are indirectly injected in their brains and they thus, voluntarily, on being influenced by them, forwarded them.
Conspiracy Theories- The Anchors to the Ununderstandable World
Fake news has also been spreading its base to such a level that the action has given birth to several conspiracy theories. Though these conspiracy theories make up for an engaging discussion, they had provoked individuals to carry out extreme things.
Hand Sanitizer- Oh you mean Vodka?
Individuals have gone over the edge with the acknowledgement that hand sanitizers contain liquor. While high proof vodka contains a considerable amount of liquor, it can't be utilized as an antiseptic. Though the news might be getting hopes in a college kid as of getting an excuse to why there is a little alcohol left.
Virus The Ultimate Bioweapon
There is a discussion about how the coronavirus is a bioweapon; this announcement is loaded with opinions that hint that the infection was 'made' by China as a war, with the USA as their accessory. The thought that the two opponent countries who run without anyone else's support would scheme against the remainder of the world is far-fetched, particularly with Trump making his own hypotheses and considering it the 'China infections and whatnot. Speculations further propose that the infection was made to murder Gen X-ers with #boomer remover doing its rounds via online media.
When we go down the depth of all these sorts of fake news and theories, it is difficult to come out from it. The pandemic has driven individuals to be a lot more dependent upon the social media as their wellspring of nearly everything rather than reading from actual sources, that fake news gets out quicker than Covid now. Fear inspired notions encompassing Covid-19 have hit the pinnacle of silliness, yet individuals accept the strange explanations and follow up on them just for things to go crooked.