Fake news has been a nightmare to all, be it civilians, bureaucrats, politicians or Law Enforcement Authorities. Fake news has been broadly defined as spread of mis-information, dis-information or mal-information. Earlier, it used to spread word to mouth but recently, digital forms of communication such as edited videos, memes, unverified advertisements and social media channels are being used to initiate and propagate rumours.
Fake news has become a serious problem not only in India but across the globe. It has resulted in mob lynching, mass hysteria, group migration, defamation and much more. In India itself, at least 20 people were killed in 2018 in various mob lynching incidents, with direct connection to misinformation.
Fighting Fake News in India:
With the rise of fake news, various fact-checking websites have sprung up e.g., Alt News, Boom Live, Factly etc. Media houses have followed the suit, and started their own fact checking departments e.g., India Today Group, ToI Factcheck, WebQoof etc.
The Press Information Bureau, which comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has also set up a fact checking unit. It focuses on verification of news related to the government.
How to Verify News:
Since hoax stories are likely to be manufactured, readers need to willingly volunteer themselves to check the credibility of the news every time they find it suspicious. The following are the important aspects to take into consideration:
Check the URL: Some fake websites may try to fool the public by mimicking an original popular websites which falls in the category of interest of the target. For example, if you are a fan of cricket, you must have heard of the website www.espncricinfo.com. Now, the scammer tries to lure you into the website by providing you a fake link (like: www.espncncinfo.com) or by using a link shortner services like tinyurl.com or bitly.com etc.
Solution: Softwares like URLcrazy help identify the fake domain names of some popular websites with minute tweaks in their name.
Using Headlines: You may receive a news story with a picture of Bollywood/ Hollywood celebrity and a headline like “shocking truths about the celebrities!” with no URL mentioned alongside but things like boldface, ALL CAPS, underlining or exclamation points. These are meant to get into your psyche that you are likely to see something very important. But when you click it, you find that the story has nothing to do with the picture or headline.
Solution: Thus, if the words like “shocking” or “outrageous” are used in the headlines without requirement, than its one of the warning indicators.
Inspecting sources: When we analyse news, signs can be useful, however they aren't always enough. At times, genuine news stories use procedures to pull our attention and that may cause them to appear phony. Furthermore, phony sources may be so great at duplicating the genuine article that it may be difficult to tell that they're fake. So, in these cases, you need multiple confirmations.
Solution: You need to check whether other publishers had published similar story. If you are unable to find a reliable source than most probably the story is fake.
Websites for Fake News Checking:
The BOOM website, introduces itself as: “BOOM is an independent digital journalism initiative with a mission to fight misinformation and make the internet safer. We are India’s premier fact checking website, committed to bring to our readers verified facts rather than opinion.
Subjects that BOOM actively fact checks range from political, social, communal and health & medicine to products and services and even history. We speak to people, we check and verify and do not publish until and unless we have got formal clarifications on posts or stories where individuals and orgnisations are involved.
BOOM is presently available in three languages, English, Hindi and Bengali with dedicated on ground teams working on all three.
We were the first factchecker to launch a WhatsApp helpline where you can send in your posts & forwards to be fact checked. Our WhatsApp helpline which receives hundreds of serious queries every week is: +917700906111”
Alt News is a fact-checking website that is committed to debunking misinformation, disinformation and mal-information that we encounter on a daily basis on social media as well as mainstream media.
Fact-checks by Alt News encompass a wide variety of false information including:
In addition to fact-checking, Alt News also covers news which the mainstream media often skips or provides inadequate coverage to, such as caste-based atrocities, religious discrimination, labour struggles, farmer struggles etc. The social media accounts of Alt News are as follows: