In today’s age, humans probably consume more information in a day than the food they consume in a month. Social media and smartphones have made it possible to get us apprised of everything that happens in the world. Most of the time, the information overload inhibits our conscience to check for any disinformation that might be there and because of this, the fake news is consumed as genuine information leading to disastrous consequences. But the larger questions are, why do we need to worry about fake news? As rational beings why is it that we do not question the information even though it may look suspicious?
Fake news has become a menace in today’s world. It can lead to flawed opinions which in turn can swing elections posing a threat to the very foundation of a nation. In the case of elections, fake news is targeted at persuadable people who are dangling on the borderline. Since fake news is propagated to manipulate people, it can make people take decisions which a person would normally refrain from taking. Fake news can help in manufacturing consent for unpopular decisions of governments. It can not only help in creating hatred for a particular ethnic group or nation but in extreme cases may lead to wars.
There are myriads of reasons behind spreading of fake news, from our belief system to our biases. If a person has a certain belief system, he is more likely to believe disinformation which aligns with his belief system whereas genuine information against his belief system might be rejected because the person simply does not want to see that possibility and this leads to further propagation of disinformation. The belief system is not the only reason behind fake news. Fake news keeps spreading unabated also because of fear. Fear is not just a reason but also a result of fake news. E.g. if a person fears that share market is going to collapse very soon, then disinformation can be used to consolidate his fear and the person might end up sharing the disinformation among his peer groups, leading to the actual collapse of share market.
Fake news propagators also cash in on prejudices or biases of a person. It works in the same way the belief system does. A person or a community might have certain prejudices against another community or a person and the propagators use this to further their agendas.
Although fake news is a menace and poses a significant threat, efforts are on to fight fake news. In recent times, many news channels have come up with anti-fake news teams specifically designed to combat disinformation but certainly, it is not proving to be enough. Therefore, governments should come up with a new set of regulations and mechanism to identify disinformation. The government should put appropriate penalizing mechanisms in place to punish who use disinformation to further their propaganda. The government may start providing authenticity certificates subject to scrutiny to news websites and channels. If these platforms fail in the scrutiny test then their registration should be cancelled.