A bigger evil to humanity, more than human beings themselves, is quite possibly the increasing rate of false information that never ceases.
2020 is not what we hoped for. The Covid-19 outbreak in Australia is unnerving and as of July 2020, there are about 9,980 cases in Australia and about 12.9 Million confirmed cases world-wide. The fear of testing positive seems to be shaking our core and willpower. Despite the horror, the pandemic has become the sole reason for human beings remain united by confining themselves to their homes. But amidst this vulnerable duration, there are people who still remain skeptical and rebellious.
The credit goes to what we call, ‘conspiracy theories’ and worst of all, ‘rumours.’ In times of crisis, misinformation is bound to prevail and unfortunately it overpowers common sense. Today anyone with a social media account has the authority to offer their speculations and opinions, reaching the masses and instigating fear. The hub for misinformation originates from the dark corners of the internet. One such incident is when people were convinced 5G techonology was to be blamed for the CoronaVirus pandemic.
About 3 months ago, 20K phone masts were vandalised over this false claim in the UK. Even YouTubers and Vloggers used this myth has a strategy to increase their views and drew a link between 5G & Covid-19. Though many outlets and doctors have exposed the falsity in this myth, it was already etched into people’s memories, pumping constant fear. From such hideous claims, it finally reached renowned celebrities like, Boxer Amir Khan, Singer Anne-Marie, Actor Woody Harrelson, former Dancing on Ice judge Jason Gardiner, pop star Keri Hilson and former Made in Chelsea star Lucy Watston who put out their statements, leading to influencing their followers.
The theory claimed 5G can suppress the immune system and make people more susceptible to catching the virus or the virus could somehow be transmitted through the use of 5G technology. Most people were blindly sharing the misinformation without context and it finally perished when scientists called it ‘utter rubbish.’ An associate professor in Cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, Dr Simon Clarke mentioned to the BBC that, “The idea that 5G lowers your immune system doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Your immune system can be dipped by all sorts of thing – by being tired one day, or not having a good diet. Those fluctuations aren’t huge but can make you more susceptible to catching viruses.”
This was just one such scenario that pushed human beings away from thinking rationally and making an informed choice. When you are in fear, you seek answers in the wrong place. Hence, allowing assumptions and absurdity to cloud your thoughts. Guy Berger, the Director for Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO in conversation with UN News mentioned, “When disinformation is repeated and amplified, including by influential people, the grave danger is that information which is based on truth, ends up having only marginal impact.”
And this goes without scrutiny that ‘Fake news’ grows from the weaker minds and spreads faster than any contagious disease. The carrier of misinformation is what we see as WhatsApp today. A global interactive platform is held responsible for hosting disinformation. NBC News came out with an article back in 2018 pointing out the flaws in this messaging app. A result of false information lead to a violent gesture in Mexico. On 29 August 2018, rumours of child abductors spread through WhatsApp by a single man named, Martinez who suspected 2 men to be child kidnappers and actively involved in organ-trafficking. Later, under Martinez a small mob gathered around these 2 men, Ricardo and Alberto, 2 innocent men thrashed badly and then set on fire. Video footage was then displayed showing their limbs slowing covered in burning flames.
This is not the only brutal case. A footage edited to look like a kidnapping spread like wildfire through WhatsApp in India, inspired by mobs to kill about dozens of people. From Brazil to Sri Lanka, mobs have taken ownership to resolve matters on the basis of information through a messaging service. Such has become the level of animosity amongst human beings when exposed to ‘Fake news.’ In Sri Lanka, the government even shut down certain apps temporarily, such as Facebook, Instagram and other messaging apps like Viber to stop the rising ethnic atrocities.
This malpractice of posting fabricated material to millions of people needs to stop and ‘myth-busting’ needs to be publicised more often than ever. Fake news is more dangerous than we can comprehend. The WACC Global describes fake news as a contentious business. It defines fake news as reports that are often vicious, politically-motivated, promoted on social media and sometimes created in the Balkans by teenagers for cash.
One of the primary reasons behind this accelerating growth of fake news is due to online bloggers, citizen journalists and non-traditional news deliveries showing how the internet has democratised the idea of global interaction. The internet has set some blurry regulations for its users making it difficult to locate a source to be credible or deceitful.
So can fake news be eradicated ever? That is likely impossible. As long as news exists, fake news lingers around like its tail. The fabricated news and inaccuracy of stories are a price we pay for the sake of enjoying freedom of speech and expression in this world. However, what we can do is not let ‘fake news’ get to us in the sea of credible information that gets lost. It is vital to follow trustworthy news houses that provide original content without tweaking it for the sake of causing an outbreak and disharmony.
The Conversation published an article stating factors that can easily help spot ‘Fake news.’ It directs people to look into the English and grammatical errors in the article, a logo and right amount of references to deliver more facts on the claims in the article and importantly resort to fact checking using websites such as APFactCheck and Full Fact that commonly highlight fake news stories.
Beyond everything, the best remedy to avoid fake news is by listening to your common sense.
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