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Fake News : Repercussions, Identification, And Laws In India

Traditionally, what needs to be printed and broadcasted in the media was chosen and decided by the anonymous and faceless individuals. But, with the advent of technology and the internet, the creation and dissemination of news and information are rapidly changing. From one viewpoint, online social media has raised a platform for exercising the right of speech and expression and from the other, online social media provides a breeding ground for the creation and dissemination of fake and bogus news. It is fake news that is being widely spread more often than the genuine news and more of all, it is very difficult to trace the origin of fake news.


Impact of Fake News


Fake means something that is not genuine and causes deception. Fake news usually spreads with every new event that takes place in the country. It spreads in multiple forms, in the form of false headlines, morphed pictures or videos, etc. Hence, online media deserves special attention as it has a much wider reach and hastens the spreading of news. It consequently impacts the functioning of society at large. Moreover, the spread of fake news tends to cause misinterpretation, misunderstanding, widespread agitation, violence, defamation, impacts in public relations, economic growth of the nation, etc. Most of the time, fake news is spread to target a particular group of audience in society. It is seldom spread against poorly informed and unaware people who do not bother to counter the dissemination of such kind of news. Another reason for the spread of fake news is to troll or take revenge against a person, or can be done out of spite.



Laws in India dealing with Fake News.


Law enforcement agencies must take action against such menace. In India, section 505(1)(b) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 addresses to some extent, the spread of fake news that results in dread or caution to the general public which can make any individual to be influenced and initiate an offence against the State or disturb the public peace. Considering the current situation, it is a requirement that the legitimate provisions are set out clearly in the Information Technology Act, 2000. The truth of the matter is that innumerable individuals recurrently just forward whatever news/message they receive on their electronic devices. The lawful ramifications of this act are frequently not comprehended by the people who accept that whatever comes through their gadgets must be valid and significant. This requires serious and urgent attention. Hence, the IT Act, 2000 should take a lead in this matter.


Measures to Identify a Fake News


Nevertheless, in the absence of appropriate provision, it is pertinent that we stay aware and recognize the difference between genuine and fake news. Some of the measures that an individual can adopt to identify fake news are as follows-

  • Check the authenticity of a source given by an information provider (website and even an individual).

  • Check whether the URL seems malicious or not.

  • Before relying on the information, it is necessary to keep a check on the date and time of publication of the news.

  • One should check as to who is the author (the writer) of the information.

  • The references that are used must be cross-verified.

  • The images used and posted must be thoroughly scrutinized and also identify whether there are traces of the picture being morphed one.

  • After reading the news, it should be identified whether the information seems biased or not.

  • Check multiple sources and observe whether they provide similar kinds of news.

  • One must restrict sharing if the news seems fake.

  • Report the fake news with the appropriate authority.

Apart from that, there are various tools to identify whether the news is fake or not, some of them are- Bot Sentinel, Bad news, Adblock Plus, Checkology, Fakey, numerous other AI-enabled tools, etc.


Conclusion


The subject matter of fake news is itself a great concern. The way forward is to either enact a law/ provision that specifically deals with fake news generation and dissemination through electronic means or to ensure technical literacy through awareness programs. In the absence of an explicit provision on this aspect, a citizen’s proactive approach and attentiveness are the absolute methods to scrap the menace of the fake news, which affects the nation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mala Lahoti is currently pursuing Masters in Cyber Law and Information Security from the National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal.

They can be contacted at malalahoti@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/mala-lahoti-2aa804190.

Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair.

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