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Enabling Young Fake News Busters

In less than two months, about twenty people have lost their lives across ten states of India because of one viral WhatsApp message that claimed kidnapping gangs were on the prowl who wanted to abduct and harvest the organs of children.

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In less than two months, about twenty people have lost their lives across ten states of India because of one viral WhatsApp message that claimed kidnapping gangs were on the prowl who wanted to abduct and harvest the organs of children.


This ‘news’ of kidnapping gangs was not on any newspaper or news channel - but exclusively on Social Media; yet the impact was enormous; showing the power, reach and unfortunately the deadly impact of this new age platform.


Without throwing any more statistics or quoting more gruesome incidents - it shouldn’t be hard to agree that Fake News has become an issue of massive concern and no one knows what to do about it.


What used to be ‘harmless’ WhatsApp lies or that UNESCO has declared our national anthem the best in the world... has now turned into this menacing tool that is being used to swing elections, destroy reputations and even lynch people.


It does not help much that the media, (the supposed guardian of the truth) has been found peddling Fake News itself on many occasions. So it comes down to the citizens to be a lot more aware and stop the flood of fake news - especially on social media. While the older generation has admittedly fallen into the trap of believing WhatsApp messages as the gospel truth (without verification) - we can stop the next generation form doing so, by encouraging our student’s sense of inquisitiveness and their ability to question everything without bias.


After the massive deployment of Fake News in the last US Elections, now many progressive schools in America are teaching students how to segregate Fake News from the real thing.


Given how rapidly Social Media is penetrating in India and how Fake News will only become a bigger problem - we too need to equip our students to understand how to spot Fake News. Who knows - maybe Fake News busting may become an alternative career one day!


At NWS we have rolled out a basic programme for students, explaining Fake News and how to spot it. It's not rocket science really; all we have to do is get rid of our blind belief in anything sent by a ‘reliable friend or uncle’ via WhatsApp or FB as indisputably true! The rest gets easy after that :)


Here are some tricks that students are being taught at NWS to bust Fake News.....


Check the source of the News (is a reliable source or publication?)

Who’s the author? (usually missing from Fake News)

Check the date (is this old information/video being recirculated?)

Does this suit and match your bias (making you share it faster)

Read beyond the headline (are you falling for a clickbait and not reading the full story?)

It is a joke/ prank/satire (that you are taking seriously by mistake?)

Ask the experts if still confused (there are many websites that specialise in Fake News busting)


Our intention is to integrate awareness against Fake News as another important life skill for our students, this awareness and sense of responsibility will help students - as they get ready to face the realities of the world that gets more complicated by the day. We intend to invite experts on Fake News who can educate students on the ills of Social Media - if used without responsibility.


We have already seen in the US; how Facebook was used to manipulate opinion in the country; it is a stinging reality that one the greatest democracy in the world was compromised due to fake and manipulated news. Back in India, the largest democracy in the world is facing a crisis of news credibility and now even lynchings due to fake news driven by WhatsApp rumours.


Every technological wave brings with it - a host of issues. Fake News perhaps is the biggest bane that Social Media has unleashed and it’s only going to get worse in the years to come. There is ‘Deep Fake’ on the anvil ( the ability to morph anyone’s video to say anything you want it to say), therefore training our students in this area is all the more vital and important. Not only will this make our students more responsible citizens, but also prevent more bitterness and violence that is spread using Fake News.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


Tags assigned to this article:
social responsibility fake news

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