Fake news on social media

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    In Context

    • Recently, Election Management Bodies (EMBs) expressed their expectation from social media sites to proactively flag fake news.

    More about the news

    • International conference for EMBs:
      • The Chief Election Commissioner was addressing an international conference for EMBs hosted by the Election Commission of India (ECI). 
        • The conference was held under the aegis of the United States’ ‘Summit for Democracy’ platform.
    • Chief Election Commissioner on managing fake news:
      • He stated that Election management bodies (EMBs) expected social media sites to use their “algorithm power” to proactively flag fake news
        • He said social media platforms proclaim to have content policies but added that they do also have such “algorithm power”.
        • According to him, a proactive approach by these platforms to counter fake news would facilitate “credible electoral outcomes”.

    Summit for Democracy

    • ‘Summit for Democracy’, was an initiative of the US President hosted in December 2021.
    • It brings together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector in a shared effort.
    • It aims to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.
    • The Summit also developed two platforms – ‘Focal Groups’ and ‘Democracy Cohorts’ to facilitate participation in the Year of Action.

    More about the Fake News

    • Fake news, broadly termed as false news or misinformation disguised as credible news, which is very persuasive and has serious consequences for democracy.

    Effects

    • Influencing opinions: It can be used to influence public opinions, to gain popularity or to malign the image, character of certain individuals or opponents or to defame them.
    • Issue of fake news during elections: During the 2016 US Presidential elections,  a bipartisan Senate committee found that before and after the 2016 election, the Russian government used social media advertising to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories.
    • On similar lines, there has been talk of Facebook interfering with India’s electoral democracy. 
    • Disturbing harmony:
      • It affects social & communal harmony by spreading extremists’ ideologies especially in sensitive areas like radicalization of youths, inciting violence and hatred among the communities, swinging public opinions etc.

    Challenges

    • No standard definition: 
    • Lack of regulation

    Legal remedies to tackle fake news

    • Indian Broadcast Foundation (IBF): 
    • The Press Council of India: 
    • IPC Sections 153A and 295: .
    • Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC): 
    • Defamation Suit: 
    • The Information Technology (IT) Act: 
    • Contempt of Court laws: 
    • Constitution:

    Way ahead

    • Policy-makers: Although the policy-makers’ steps and regulations are in the right direction, the existing loopholes need to be filled.
    • All the stakeholders- lawmakers, online intermediaries, and citizens have a collective responsibility to curb fake news. 
      • Lawmakers:  While lawmakers can keep amending the laws, the citizens’ duty lies to gain awareness about media literacy. 
      • Online intermediaries: On the other hand, tech platforms need to ensure the use of a sophisticated algorithm to present the public with correct, accurate, and truthful information.

    CitizensThe responsibility lies equally among the general public to educate with the necessary information to critically analyze information and then make deductive conclusions.