Social media networks and messaging apps are now more than ever before catalysts for fake news – the real kind of fake news, not the Trump kind you may see plastered online. While some vague efforts have been made to tackle an admittedly ongoing and unprecedented problem, it seems as a new grim tale about WhatsApp has been highlighted in the press, the ongoing war between the truth and the viral lies can lead to unfortunate events.
The New York Times recently published a statement explaining that, in India, false rumours regarding child abductions spread both easily and quickly and as a result have led to a rise in multiple murders, which are believed to have possibly been arranged by mobs. In recent times, awareness of the fake news stories themselves, which are in turn causing the new increase in deaths, are being sent over the popular app, WhatsApp.
As reported by the Guardian, at least 20 people have been lynched in the country in the last two months as a result of such unfounded rumours, and the number is unfortunately expected to rise.
The Facebook-owned messaging service will now reportedly restrict individuals to only being able to forward messages to just 20 people at a single time in an attempt to stop fake news from spreading, or spreading as rapidly as it had prior. However, Gizmodo spotted that the cap is set even lower in India – only allowing 5 people at any given time. This, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t communicate the news in others ways – by taking a screenshot or typing it out yourself, however it will remove an “easier” option from the mix.
The at present, temporary move was prompted by a Channel 4 news report, which revealed through undercover filming that the service’s moderators were contravening Facebook’s own policies. Although, it’s currently unclear, whether the move will ultimately prove to be effective or not entirely.
While the idea of Fake News was first made popular by President Trump during his presidential campaign, the real case of Fake News has been around almost as long as news itself. Studies are now only just revealing the extent to just how it spreads so quickly, and how it’s truely so resistant to being corrected.
It’s becoming clear that wilful ignorance and intentional deceptions are becoming like diseases for those individuals who may be more open to believing information they read online. Professionals have previously stated there are a number of “viral recipes” which could almost guarantee something to be spread rapidly around the world. Fake news does have the opportunity to spread through almost any technological platform, although has in the past far more quickly and further on social media than anything else, which seemingly also tends to gain more attraction than genuine information.
Though, in saying that, those individuals who are in fact attempting to misrepresent or otherwise popularising fake science, too, comes at a risky cost. Unfounded rumours of impending disasters or medically induced conditions are seemingly spread across the web like a viral infection and because of it, can sometimes dramatically altering people’s lives for the worse. At a minimum, it puts scientific endeavours in a bad light, as fake news for other reporting often leads to a lower public trust in journalism in general. However, it can also seriously impact an individuals health if they take the advice recommended by the fake news articles to treat their illness.
While these examples are only reportedly found in parts of India, fake news can now directly lead to killings all over the world, too. Due to the high risk of engaging in part of a fake news article, or video or otherwise, professionals urge individuals to double – and even triple-check facts listed online with their own trusted doctor before taking the advice written.