[Editorial Analysis] Approaching the misinformation storm

Mains Paper 3: Security
Prelims level: Fake News in India
Mains level: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money laundering and its prevention.

Context:

• There is a rapid spread of misinformation through social networks such as facebook, Whats-app and Twitter.

Key issues:

• Social media outlets have no journalistic norms. Anyone can say anything at any time about any topic without any scant respect for truth. As a result, most of the news available on these platforms are biased.

• Spread of misinformation influences outcomes of elections which is dangerous for a democracy.

• Spread of false and malicious news can stoke violence at a short notice e.g. A Video to spread information about child abduction in Pakistan was edited and spread through whatsapp in India which triggered resulting in frenzied mob attacks across India, which have so far claimed several lives.

• Hardening political stances due to spread of misinformation is triggering acute polarisation among masses.

• Use of echo chamber algorithms by these social media websites keeps on bombarding the user with related such news which shapes his/her views. E.g If you search a right wing leaning posts, the algorithm will keep providing with more such ideological posts.

• Cheap internet led to around 500-700 million people online. New users are most likely to fall in prey of these targeted advertising.

Some Initiatives in India to check Fake News in India:

• PIB initiated #PIBFactCheck to check menace of fake news.
• Indian govt. the government said the messaging platform whatsapp will need to set up a local entity and find a tech solution to trace the origin of fake messages on its platform.
• Indian govt. had also asked twitter to remove accounts spreading rumors on issues like Kashmir issues.
• In 2018, new draft rules were proposed by the government that seek to curtail the misuse of social networks and increase accountability.

• Although there is no specific provision in Indian law that specifically deals with fake news but, there are several offenses in India’s Penal Code that criminalize certain forms of speech that may be relevant to fake news and may apply to online or social media content, including the crimes of sedition and promoting enmity between different groups.

Way Forward:

• India might need to chart its own path by keeping these social media firms under check before they proliferate. New Indian legislation needs to preserve free speech while still applying pressure to make sure that Internet content is filtered for accuracy, and sometimes, plain decency.

• Corporate Responsibility of these social media firms. Facebook, for instance, has started to address this matter by publishing ‘transparency reports’ and setting up an ‘oversight board’ to act as a sort of Supreme Court for Facebook’s internal matters.

• Regulatory attempts to control the spread of misinformation should be transparent and kept before public view instead of being converted into secret corporate processes.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), consider the following statements:

1. The MSP of six Rabi crops including Wheat, Chana, Masoor, Mustard, Jowar and Safflower has been hiked in the range of 50 to 300 rupees.

2. The hike is in consonance with the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission’s report.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the major challenges regarding spreading misinformation in India? What are the steps taken by the government?

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