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Thursday, July 18, 2024

If You Want Peace, Prepare for War: Modi needs to go to war against Fake News for Peace in India

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In the ever-evolving landscape of information and communication, the battle against fake news has emerged as a critical front in safeguarding national stability and public trust. The Narendra Modi government’s robust stance on this issue underscores a strategic axiom that has resonated through the annals of history: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

India, home to over 1.4 billion people and the second-largest internet user base globally faces unique challenges in curbing fake news. The rapid spread of misinformation is facilitated by the widespread use of social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, where unverified information can go viral within minutes. This environment has proven fertile for the dissemination of rumors, false claims, and misleading narratives. The proliferation of fake news can have particularly pernicious consequences. From inciting communal violence to undermining democratic processes and eroding trust in public institutions, the ramifications are profound and far-reaching.

Fake news has been a catalyst for communal tensions and violence in India. For instance, in the Manipur conflict, an image of a Meitei woman’s dead body wrapped in plastic went viral by then with a fake narrative that the woman was sexually assaulted and killed by the Kuki. As a result of this fake news, reportedly, a Meitei mob rampaged through a Kuki village, attacked and killed people of the Kuki community, paraded two women naked, and sexually violated them. A video of the heinous act done to the women went viral a few weeks later.

In another example, during the 2019 Pulwama attack, numerous fake videos and messages were circulated, claiming more attacks and spreading fear among the populace. During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation about the virus and vaccines posed a significant public health risk. False claims about the efficacy of home remedies, conspiracy theories about vaccine side effects, and fake cures proliferated on social media. This misinformation undermined public health efforts and vaccine campaigns.

In the 2024 general elections, numerous instances of fake news were reported, including manipulated videos and false claims targeting political figures. For instance, false claims about EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) tampering were circulated widely, aiming to undermine the credibility of the electoral process.

Recognizing the gravity of this challenge, the Modi government will be adopting a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to combat fake news. This strategy is akin to preparing for war to secure peace, involving legal measures, technological interventions, and public awareness campaigns.

The Indian government has introduced and amended laws to tackle the spread of fake news. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, place greater responsibility on digital platforms to monitor and act against misinformation. These rules mandate social media intermediaries to appoint compliance officers, establish grievance redressal mechanisms, and trace the origin of unlawful messages.

For example: Utilizing the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, 2021, vide two separate orders on 22.04.2022, had issued directions for blocking sixteen (16) YouTube-based news channels and one (1) Facebook account. The blocked social media accounts include six Pakistan-based and ten India-based YouTube news channels, having a cumulative viewership of over 68 crore. It was observed that these channels were used to spread fake news over social media on matters related to national security, India’s foreign relations, communal harmony in the country, and public order.

The government has launched initiatives to promote fact-checking and digital literacy. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) has established a fact-checking unit to verify information related to government policies and schemes. Additionally, campaigns aimed at educating the public about the dangers of fake news and the importance of verifying information have been initiated.

Recognizing the role of social media and messaging platforms in the spread of misinformation, the Modi administration has engaged in dialogues with tech companies to enforce stricter content moderation policies. Platforms like WhatsApp have introduced measures such as limiting the number of times a message can be forwarded and flagging frequently forwarded messages to curb the spread of viral misinformation.

Harnessing the power of technology is pivotal in the fight against fake news. The Modi government is collaborating with tech giants to develop sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence tools capable of detecting and flagging fake content. These technological interventions will enhance the ability to monitor and mitigate the dissemination of false information across digital platforms.

In the battle against fake news, informed and vigilant citizens are the first line of defense. The Modi government has launched several public awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers of fake news and the importance of verifying information before sharing it. These campaigns leverage traditional media, social media, and grassroots outreach to maximize their reach and impact. However, more stringent measures need to be adopted to deal with the menace of fake news and its impact was visible in the Lok Sabha 2024 elections.

While the Modi government’s decisive actions reflect a determined effort to combat fake news, the journey is far from over. The dynamic nature of fake news, driven by technological advancements and evolving tactics of misinformation purveyors, necessitates continuous vigilance and adaptation.

The government’s approach, however, serves as a robust foundation for safeguarding the integrity of information in India. By preparing for war against fake news through legal, technological, and educational means, the Modi government aims to secure the peace and stability that are essential for the nation’s progress and prosperity.

The war against fake news is ongoing and requires continuous adaptation to evolving technologies and tactics used by those who spread misinformation. It is a battle that necessitates the cooperation of the government, technology platforms, media, and the public to safeguard the integrity of information in the digital age.

The adage “If you want peace, prepare for war” aptly encapsulates the Modi government’s strategy in dealing with the menace of fake news. Through a resolute and multi-faceted approach, the government is not only combating the immediate threats posed by fake news but also fortifying the nation’s informational landscape for the future.

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