“The news that is called fake news is put out by people who want to create doubt or create misconception with a motive,” said journalist Chitra Subramaniam at the Bangalore Lit Fest.

Cant ignore social medias role Journalists on tackling fake news
news Media Monday, October 29, 2018 - 08:27

“No conversation at our homes is without reference to social media and to fake news," began Nitin Pai, moderating an event to counter fake news at the Bangalore Literature Festival 2018 - ‘Whose Lie Is It Anyway’. Seated with him on stage were journalists Sreenivasan Jain, Naresh Fernandes, Pratik Sinha, Chitra Subramaniam, Mukund Padmanabhan and Francois Gautier. At the event, journalists discussed the menace of fake news and the possible ways of combating the same.

“I think the label of fake news should be applied to disinformation, to concerted campaigns by people who believe in patent untruths and who are trying to propagate them. This would apply to the time just after demonetisation when some TV journalists said that they believe the Rs 2000 note was fitted with nano GPS microchips which would allow the government to track black money from satellites and outer space. It is this kind of alt-reality that we need to tackle,” stated Naresh Fernandes, Editor at Scroll.

Pratik Sinha, the Co-founder of Alt-News, stated that with respect to fake news, the broader issue is that of an excess of information and most of the times the aim of fake news is to give an incident or a situation a communal twist.

“In the past two years, India as a country, we are using about ten times the amount of internet in 2018 than we did in 2016 and now many rural parts of India have access to the internet,” he said.

Co-founder of The News Minute and Editorial Advisor of Republic TV, Chitra Subramaniam stated that she believes the term fake news is an oxymoron.

“For me, there is right news and wrong news and occasionally, people make mistakes and they go back and correct them. People who generate fake news are not journalists as far as I am concerned. They are people who want to create trouble. I do not believe there is something like fake news; I believe in good journalism and bad journalism. The news that is called fake news is put out by people who want to create doubt or create misconception with a motive,” she said.

Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor at The Hindu stated that clickbait headlines also contribute to the issue.

“There is news that is false and then there's news that is fake and there must be an element of mens rea or an intent to misinform and that basic definition should hold. But I feel it is a journalist's problem as well - take something like clickbait headlines and how pervasive they become and I don't think there is enough debate to introspect (on this),” he said.

Pratik Sinha also highlighted the case where rumours were being spread on WhatsApp and social media about child-lifters and stated that the role of WhatsApp cannot be ruled out when it comes to fake news.

“30 people have been killed exactly because of what happens on social media and a lot of these people were offline and they got together and they lynched people just because they thought that child kidnappers were on the prowl and they were going to kidnap children and sell their organs. To assume that WhatsApp and Facebook are not having an effect is a completely wrong assumption. I think we are downplaying the role Facebook and social media plays to propagate fake news,” he stated.

Senior journalist Sreenivasan Jain opined that the biggest threat to democracy is falsehoods spread by high political functionaries as well as fake propaganda.

“For me, the biggest threat is not so much the kind that is lurking in the dark, or in the corners of the internet but very much through the context that we are in today, that is to do with the culture of divisive falsehoods which are spread by high political functionaries as well as fake government propaganda, which is either outright false information or misleading cherry-picked data, which, to me, constitutes the biggest threat to democracy. And if you are going to frame it in that terms, the way I framed it, then the biggest culprit as we speak at the moment is the ruling party, is the BJP, is the government, is the right-wing ecosystem,” he said.

Chitra Subramaniam, however, believed that the people of India via social media will themselves be able to put a check on fake news.

At another session held at the Bangalore Lit Fest, Chitra Subramaniam spoke on the Bofors and the Rafale deal with journalist Chidanand Rajghatta.

"For me, it is a good deal. It is not a bad deal. Did politicians make money, is the question I want to ask,” she said of the Rafale deal.

The Bangalore Lit Fest was held on October 27 and 28 at Hotel The Lalit Ashok.

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