Social media is a great platform that gave voice to voiceless people but unfortunately, the problem of fake information amidst the Pandemic is very high in India because of the same social media. As per the survey done by Microsoft’s Third Digital Civility Index, Indians were most likely to encounter fake news and internet hoaxes and they highlighted that social media and messaging platforms have become a vehicle for misinformation and propaganda during the pandemic times.
During this Covid19 people are forced to stay and work from home and stay in quarantine, internet usage is raised multi-fold, people are staying extended hours on online platforms either for working remotely, seeking knowledge, reaching out to loved ones and also at the time of crises.
We have seen many posts that were seen associated with covid19 treatment that isn’t proven at all, traditional procedures to mitigate the exposure, and medicines that are either not proven, and instructions (Tiny Links & Google Forms) for people to fill up on hospital beds and oxygen. Fake information in this crucial time shall have a dreadful effect with a potential negative impact on their mental health and psychological well-being.
Right now, we are in a time where sensationalism is rewarded because it attracts attention, manipulates beliefs, and drives people to act. A convincing fake can be naturally viral, now sensationalism and forgery are more than reality. Police and Judiciary have to remain ever vigilant in the online/virtual worlds to protect individuals and society from the dangers of Fake Information.
Filtering Fake Information on Internet :
- You must Consider the Source.
- Check Website URL and its Legitimacy i.e. (gov.in or www.who.int).
- Check Author’s Credibility.
- Read beyond the headline, meaning read the entire article to understand the viewpoint and tone of the message or article.
- Disregard Your bias: Many people watch news or stories that confirm their own beliefs or biases.
- Take a second opinion and alternatively do a fact check from Fact Checkers of IFCN Network.
What the Indian Law Says :
Min of IT announced changes to the IT Act that would require social media platforms to start tracing the originators of messages and report within 24 hours when compelled by the government.
- Disaster Management Act 2005, Section 54 – Punishment for False Warning Regarding Disaster or its Severity which leads to panic and Punishment up to 1 Year Imprisonment
- Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, Rule 6 – No one allowed to print information of Diseases without consent of DHFW, Delhi and Punishment Under 188 IPC
- Information Technology Act, Section 66 – Identity Theft – Anonymous Post in Social Media claiming a victim is spreading disease. Punishment up to 3 Year Imprisonment and Fine up to 1 Lakh
- IPC Section 269 – Neglectful Act likely to spread infection of dangerous disease to life and Punishment up to 6 Months with Fine. (Example – Drinking Phenol cures Corona Virus by a Cleric and no need to Quarantine.)
- IPC Section 270 – Malignant Act likely to spread infection of dangerous disease to life and Punishment up to 2 Years with Fine. (Example – False Document claiming groceries/injections are distributed freely)
- IPC Section 336 – Act endangering life or personal safety of life with Punishment up to 2 Months with Fine. (Example – Chinese Herb claiming Cure to Corona Virus)
Dealing with fake information as an Individual:
- Do a Google Reverse Image check or use www.tineye.com for photo verification
- Install Invid Tool Kit Extension for your browser for doing a fact check for a photo or video (https://www.invid-project.eu/tools-and-services/invid-verification-plugin/)
- Don’t forward content that you don’t Own, forward only after proper fact-checking is done
- Consume / Forward content only from www.who.int or from government website, having an extension. (.gov.in) related to COVID19.
- Fact Check with any one of the International Fact-Checking Network Organisations before forwarding i.e. www.factly.in
- Never click on links you get on message platforms that are likely to show (a) No of beds availability (b) Covid related medicine availability (c) Showing Graphs of affected areas Etc
Reporting fake information to Social Platforms :
Social Platforms claim to be taking appropriate action for all the requests made on their portals, However, there is mistrust on the non-transparency of the process and the lack of case closure or summary reports available to the complainant.
If the gravity of the situation is much higher, then you should complain on the national cybercrime portal, https://www.cybercrime.gov.in or alternatively visit the nearest Cyber Crime Police Station for quicker results.
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/help/572838089565953?helpref=search&sr=2&query=reporting%20false%20claims&search_session_id=f886d969d0ffdf65b717d0567986859f
- WhatsApp – https://faq.whatsapp.com/general/security-and-privacy/staying-safe-on-whatsapp/
- YouTube – https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802027
- Twitter – https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/report-a-tweet
- Instagram – https://help.instagram.com/1735798276553028
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/37822/recognizing-and-reporting-spam-inappropriate-and-abusive-content?lang=en