Did you hear? All phone calls will be recorded, all social media monitored and android phones will be connected to the ministry of communication and digital economy (which apparently does not exists) in Assam.
Fat-fetched as the statement sound, it was among the most shared fake news stories on Twitter in 2021.
“Fake News” is hardly a new phenomenon, yet its costs have reached another level in recent years. Misinformation concerning COVID-19 has cost countless lives all over the world. False and misleading information about elections can shake the foundation of democracy, for instance, by making citizens lose confidence in the political system.
While misinformation have always existed in media, the open-ended social media platforms are becoming a cause of concern – as there’s no way to verify content and anybody can share any information, fake or otherwise, proliferation of fake news and spam always loom large.
In a recent instance, reports of a tea seller (Chaiwala) boy from Assam securing a seat at AIIMS by cracking NEET, was doing rounds on the social media, which has now turned out to be fake.
A 24-year-old Rahul Kumar Das is a resident of Patarkuchi area in Assam’s Bajali district. After the news of him cracking the NEET exam and securing a seat in AIIMS Delhi made the national headlines, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that his government would take care of his educational expenses while education minister Ranoj Pegu visited his house and felicitated him.
In a surprising development, a group of students from Assam who appeared for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has first raised the alarms and claimed that Das’s allegedly used the records of Haryana student to show that he secured a seat at AIIMS.
But just two days after the news broke, it has been found that Rahul’s admit card was photoshopped and there is a stark mismatch between the roll number and date of birth in his admit card.
Following scrutiny by multiple sources, it came to light that he had used the records of the Haryana student. The Roll No – 2303001114, which was in Rahul’s admit card, appears to be that of a girl named Kiranjeet Kaur from Haryana, who ranked AIR 11656.
Rahul lost his father a few years ago and his mother ran a tea-pan shop to eke out a living. When news broke that he faked his results, the landowner allegedly asked his mother to vacate the place. Rahul, his mother, and his younger brother are now allegedly absconding.
The sharing of fake news on social media platforms is now turning into a global concern as people no longer are dependent on newspapers, and news channels to get their daily dose of news updates. This can be gauged by the fact that people are now keen on making Twitter trends rather than waiting or confirming for the accurate information regarding any incident.
We all can agree on the fact that for a long time, traditional media’s business models have irrevocably broken as the high-margin print advertising that sustained these companies had declined. Both print and TV newsrooms have starved of resources for nearly two decades as companies scramble to figure out how to make money off digital journalism.
As a result we have fewer reporters on the ground chasing down stories, particularly those that are in the public’s best interest but may seen uninteresting to the public. In their place we have punditry and columnist; we have reporters regurgitating other people’s opinions that they have read on the web and sticking to a narrow band of topics that will garner page views, rather than serving an audience.
So where do media stand in all these? Does it signal the end of the road of journalism as we have known over the years? Well, to be honest, the process has already begun. And not suddenly now, but over the years. In fact, its downslide can be partly traced to the day internet was born and hastened further when smartphones swamped the society in recent years, with social media only further accelerating the process.