Ashwini Gangal

Is there an antidote to fake news?

At Digipub World, a panel of experts spoke about the fake news menace.

Fake news has become a billion dollar business. Today we even have different types of fake news, for crying out loud! As classified by First Draft News, they include satire, misleading content, imposter content, 100 per cent fabricated content, false connection, false context and manipulated content.

Is there an antidote to fake news?

The Panel

The virus has already spread far and wide. “How does one put in checks and balances?” the session moderator Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, columnist and writer, Business Standard, asked the panel. Where does one even start?

Edited excerpts of what her panel of experts said about the matter at Digipub World.

Ramakrishnan Laxman, head - digital business, ABP News Network

Is there an antidote to fake news?

Ramakrishnan LaxmanWe've been discussing this problem for a very long time. The trigger for us was a letter we received; it was a legal notice from RSS Chennai. It contained a picture of a screen-grab that showed policemen beating up RSS workers in khaki shorts. It said 'RSS workers were caught stealing in Chennai during the flood'. Our ABP News logo was there; we then found out that our logo was being misused rampantly. This was a fake story; the footage was from UP... it was marked and floated on social media. The problem with the dark web – WhatsApp is the biggest... over 300 million – is that you cannot trace who sent the message out.

Pankaj Pachauri, founder and editor-in-chief, GoNews

Is there an antidote to fake news?

Pankaj PachauriI have been in the business of busting fake news for the more than 30 years. And that's my brief to all my reporters today. That's because fake news has now become a sovereign policy... FBI has launched an investigation to find out whether the Russian fake news business and websites have affected the outcome the (American) election that was won by Mr. Trump. It is at that level. Mr. Trump has his own fake news industry.

In India fake news has taken centre-stage. The Government of India has now become the largest factory of fake news... it's very important to bust fake news in India because we are used to taking mythology as fact! And all this fake news is now creating (its own) mythology.

Fake news has become institutionalised... look at the claims Baba Ramdev, the third largest advertiser on television, makes. The only antidote to fake news is boots on the ground.

Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News

Is there an antidote to fake news?

Pratik SinhaThe very basis of fake news is ‘confirmation bias’. The only solution to this fake news menace is to tell people that what they are sitting and forwarding is fake. There has to be larger participation across various platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter. Unfortunately, WhatsApp is in a place where they cannot do anything – it is end-to-end encrypted.

Some (markers) that flag fake news for me include... something is completely violent and is being given a narrative. I don't think there are (too many such) markers, because it's very difficult for somebody to figure out what is fake and what is not. And it's not something that should be left to the common man to figure out... unless it can be done technologically... it can be done for videos and images...

BG Mahesh, founder and MD,

Is there an antidote to fake news?

BG MaheshMore than fake news, what's extremely dangerous is a false narrative of what is actually happening. Say an incident has taken place and an article about it is written... only part of it is true; the rest has been written to get negative reactions, just so that it will go viral. Once that narrative is planted in people's minds it is very, very difficult to remove it.

Tools (that can help detect fake news) will be mainly used by publishers. But for ordinary readers, technology at the level of FB, Google, etc. must come in and block any such articles. Even then, we don't have the technology to spot false narratives...

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