Fake News and Misinformation


    Syllabus: GS3/ Internal Security

    In News

    • Recently, police in various states have opened investigations against a large number of people for allegedly spreading misinformation and fake news

    About Fake News (Yellow Journalism)

    • Meaning: Fake news, broadly termed as false news or misinformation that is created or spread with the deliberate intent of causing harm; in the case of misinformation, the element of intent is thought to be absent.
    • Fake news can be propagated through any media: print, electronic and social.
    • Fake news can be related to anything
      • Commercially driven sensational content
      • Nation-state sponsored misinformation
      • Highly partisan news site
      • Social media itself
      • Satire or parody
    • Governments and regional bodies worldwide are grappling with this evolving threat, complicated further by technological advancements like Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT.

    Data on Misinformation 

    • Misinformation manifests differently across the globe, necessitating a nuanced approach to addressing the problem. 
    • For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, India encountered a significant amount of misinformation (16 per cent), but the nature of the content differed from that in the West, where anti-vaccine narratives gained traction.
      • In India, the claims were more diverse, ranging from immunity to natural remedies, requiring distinct messaging from the Indian government and experts.

    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

    Challenges & Outcomes

    • 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.
    Global approaches to to combat the issue

    – Various approaches have been adopted to combat the issue. 
    Singapore has implemented strict criminal laws against online misinformation and foreign interference, while also working on legislation to ensure the removal of harmful content by platforms. 
    – The European Union has developed a self-regulatory code of practice and imposed content moderation requirements on platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
    India, too, is addressing the spread of online misinformation through the Digital India Bill. This follows the IT Rules 2021 that require intermediaries to make reasonable efforts to prevent the dissemination of blatantly false information.


    • Need of a comprehensive strategy: To effectively tackle these threats, a comprehensive strategy is required — one that combines
      • Appropriate platform regulation, 
      • Accountable fact-checking, and 
      • Responsible adoption of emerging technological solutions. 
    • AI tools for India’s specific needs: While AI exacerbates the problem of misinformation in some aspects, purpose-built AI tools with human intelligence support can significantly enhance the speed and scale at which harmful online content is addressed.
      • However, it is crucial to tailor any strategy to India’s specific needs and interests while incorporating best practices from around the world.
    • Considering regional factors for Automated speech detection systems: Automated hate speech detection systems which proved effective for English and European languages, faced challenges in countries like Myanmar and Ethiopia, where local languages’ nuances were not adequately understood.
      • The devastating consequences of these failures highlight the importance of considering regional factors, including local languages and cultural context, when combating dangerous online content.
    • Fact-checking organisations: Fact-checking organisations play a crucial role in India’s approach to misinformation.
      • The country boasts the world’s largest fact-checking community, operating across languages and different media. 
      • By implementing a self-regulatory framework, combining regulation and collaboration, the Indian government can further leverage the potential of this diverse community to combat and mitigate the harms caused by online misinformation. 
      • Indian fact-checking organisations have already begun collaborating with MeitY, reflecting their recognition of the need for self-regulation.

    Way Ahead

    • India’s strong fact-checking community, combined with its leading software industry, positions the country to develop and implement a multifaceted approach to misinformation. 
    • This approach can serve as a model for other nations, particularly those in the Global South.
      • India has previously shown leadership in addressing misinformation, as seen in its collaboration with WhatsApp in 2018 to address the circulation of misleading videos that led to lynchings. 
    • As the world’s largest democracy, India is well-placed to create a regulatory framework that protects freedom of speech and the press while combating misinformation. 

    Source: IE