As the number of smartphone and social media users are proliferating in the state, it becomes immensely important that the users do not becomes vehicles of online political propaganda and spreaders of fake news. During election campaigning for the by-elections in the state, a case was registered with Kangra Police against an unidentified youth for spreading misinformation about a candidate of a major political party. Superintendent of Police, Kangra had confirmed that the action against the accused would be taken under IT (Information and Technology) Act. During the same time, with the intention to spread awareness about fake news and to enable social media users in verification of fake news, a workshop on ‘Fact Check and Fake News Verification’ was organized by the School of Journalism, Mass Communication and New Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh at Dharamshala. The major takeaway of the workshop can be summarised as follows-
Fake news is dangerous! It can cause serious damage to or assassinate somebody’s character. It can kill or murder somebody. It can spread hatred, animosity and violence. I can seriously numb one’s reasoning power. It can make a person believe that fake world is the real world. It cheats you and deceives you. What will happen if one day you wake up and realise that everything you have been believing is mostly made up of fake information? Its dangerous if it’s fake!
Himachal gearing up for taking on the Fake News menace
Fake news- it’s everywhere! It’s there crawling up the walls of your social media account. It is there flying seamlessly from one Whatsapp group to the other. It’s there residing in news outlets’ speedy run for breaking/making news. Its there in one’s desire to make impression of being the first. It’s there right now in your small talk with your friends, relatives and acquaintances, may be over a cup of coffee, tea or dinner.
Fake news- It’s combatable! It’s stoppable if you fact check and verify the information which you have slightest of doubt about. It’s controllable if you don’t share unverified and unauthorized information. Its actually preventable if you keep your common-sense activated. Its avertable if you take a break from the speedy run for TRP. It’s avoidable if you know the fact checker tools like Google reverse image search. It’s actually avoidable if you think and do what you think.
The workshop was taken by Dr. Mukul Shrivastava Google Certified Fact Checker, who is the verified fact checker and head of the department of Journalism and Mass Communication Lucknow University. The journalists, journalism students and research scholars were sensitized on the issue of fake news and thereupon given training about the tools and techniques of fake news verification. Students were also advised to exercise utmost cautiousness while giving out personal information on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. There seemed to be an agreement among all the attendees that awareness, more than any regulatory mechanism, is the key to curb the spread of fake news. In the workshop more than fifty participant were trained tackling the phenomenon of fake news and the School of Journalism, Mass Communication and New Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh at Dharamshala is planning to take up more such workshop to in future.