The Internet has been helping us in numerous ways. It helps us to do a plethora of things with just a single click. There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way we lived our lives. But for some, the pace with which this technology altered the fundamentals of living, were incomprehensible. This left the majority of people cynical of this technology. Nevertheless, Social media possible only because of internet, impacts the very thought process of the society nowadays. So it is very important to use it wisely. But people actively involve in spreading false information on these social media sites. Social media reaches out to many and hence serves as a crucible for the spread of false information. It is difficult to separate false information from the true one.
Beginning of Social Media
In earlier days, we used to write letters for communication, but this was an arduous and a rather tiresome method. This is where technology came in as blessing; it gave us a platform that would help us simplify the previous known tedious methods. Social media became a platform where we could share our thoughts, ideas and information; communicate with people in any part of the world within seconds. The first ever social media site called ‘Six Degrees’, created in 1997, which helped people converse with others. But now we have social media sites that help us talk, share our ideas, make video calls, share photos and videos, gain popularity and even earn money.
Social media has come a long way from its inception. It is important to note that now social media even acts as a source of employment for many people all over the world. Social media influencers are people who attract a large number of followers with their creativity in any field and these social media sites also pay them if they successfully entice large number of people.
The impact of Social Media
There has been exponential increase in the user base of these social media sites. Now everyone has got a platform to showcase their talents. Big companies always create a separate branch called Social Media Marketing that deals with promotions on social media in-order to reach more people. Even colleges are now also offering degrees related to social media. This alone signifies how important the whole domain has become and how it is impossible to exclude social media from the mainstream. One simply cannot avoid social media if they want to mobilize public opinion, influence them or create a market.
The great philosopher, Sophocles had rightly said that, “Nothing enters the mortal world without a curse”. Soon enough Social media became an unchecked place where people began to spread false information.
Why does false information Spread faster?
An MIT study shows that false news spreads more rapidly on social media sites than real news does and that too by a substantial margin. We are no stranger to the fact that negative news always lures people more than the positive ones. It apparently is less controversial. The truth may seem less enthralling, we can always add more spices to it and make it riveting or something that appeals to a larger audience. Negative publicity always triumphs over publicity itself. For example, when Elon Musk introduced the new Tesla Cybertruck, he made commitments that the windows can withstand a smash. But when the windows shattered into pieces, the company had to face a lot of embarrassment. This got everyone talking about the truck which gave it the publicity it otherwise couldn’t have gained.
To become more renowned and celebrated, people actively indulge in propagating fake news. It is also conceived to be true by many because it seems more believable and gives pleasure to a sadistic mind. There have been many instances where this propaganda has been put to use for the benefits of many.
Spread of False information
During the 26th January 2021, Farmer’s Protest in India which turned violent, the farmers went on to hoist the Sikh Religious Flag on the Red Fort. Some people took this opportunity to polarize this event by inseminating false news. People said that the flag was a Khalistani one (a radical terrorist organization). Others said that the farmers ambushed the Indian tricolour and replaced it with a Khalistani flag. Now this false notion was not only propounded to just be famous but also wanting to polarize people’s opinions. When such kind of false statements are being propagated by people in whom we certainly put our faith, we tend to believe such acquisitions.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the amount of false news spread was high and at an unchecked rate. Primarily because people didn’t know what the virus and the lockdown was all about. And also because people were idle at home soliciting any kind of information, they got about the situation. People were saying that taking cocaine would cure the disease and some were even going around manipulating people to not wear masks. Some people said that the virus is being use as a bio-weapon or that the government is asking everyone to stay indoors because they are acting on some other malevolent plan. Some people even started saying that Covid-19 was all hoax.
It is okay if people go around saying such things as long as the public doesn’t believe it. And if it doesn’t have any visible impact but the kind of conspiracy theories people are putting forward attracts many and makes things complicated more than it already was.
Need for Regulation
In Myanmar, Facebook is shown as an authentic source of news and widely accepted too. This makes people vulnerable to believe any kind of information they get from Facebook. This was used to conduct an ethnic cleansing by the ones in power in Myanmar. People were fed with false news regarding the Rohingya Muslims. They were being portrayed as mass murderers, terrorists, rapists and what not; so that people would drive them away from their land to other countries. It was not the common man who were spreading such information, it was the military, so people had no choice but to believe such information. This gave rise to one of the biggest refugee crisis the world had ever seen. Social media was used to weaponize the country against the Rohingyas. The advertisements and the false information shown to the people were meant to incite hatred with far reaching consequences.
People should not believe anything that they find on social media. We should always confirm any news before speaking about it on social media. Hence leaving these social media sites unchecked is only going to create myriad other problem that will find us in a quagmire in the future.