Meghalaya | ‘Survival of the Wittiest’ – Of Social media & Fake news


By Ibankyntiew Mawrie

SHILLONG | Aug 27, 2019:

With only 30 percent of the population of India being digitally enabled in this technological world, the chances of irresponsible use of the social media and the rapid flow of fake news and rumours are very high.

"It is a dangerous trend as 70 percent of our population are not digitally enabled. With no prior engagement with technology, the sudden and easy access to smartphones and internet is indeed a worrying trend," resource person from the Digital Empowerment Foundation, Ravi Guria said while speaking to TNT-The Northeast Today on the sideline of the one-day training programme on social media and fake news organised by the Meghalaya Police in Shillong here on Tuesday.

He said that due to lack of information and awareness, the 70 percent of the 1.3 billion population don't know what to do with the content made available to them, hence giving rise to the the problem of misinformation.

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He also stated that while a year back, the number of Whatsapp users in India was 200 million, this year, the number suddenly jumped to 500 which is more than a 100 percent surge even as he pointed out while the number of users is going up, the understanding of technology, however, is not growing rapidly.

The digital expert informed that fake news comes in three different forms — misinformation, disinformation and mal-information; misinformation is when a person is not aware or accidentally and lack of understanding; disinformation is when people or organisations with agendas share the piece of false information with an intention to influence people negatively; and mal-information is that piece of information which is floated out of context.

Guria also informed that the Whatsapp is the most digitally-used medium to spread fake news and information given the fact that it is very difficult to track the origin of the news due to its end-to-end encryption protection feature which shields the person who started the chain.

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"Most of the people are not educated enough, not trained enough, not evolved enough to use the technology and that is one of the prime reasons why fake news is becoming such a big monster," he said.

Touching on the paid news aspect, Guria said that paid news is more of a social and behaviourial problem rather than a technological flaw. "Negative stories tend to travel faster than postive stories because they are 'exciting'", Guria said adding that it becomes all the more important to verify the news through multiple authentic sources like the media, police and government officials.

When asked about the measures to counter fake news on social media, the digital expert said "Making oneself aware is very important; of course the technological companies are figuring tools to curb the flow of fake news with the help of Artificial Intelligence. The government is taking measures by talking and asking techno companies and all stakeholders to organise awareness programmes to address this menace."

Digital wellness is a very important aspect, said Guria adding that this aspect is being promoted in many schools, allowing students to grab an understanding of technology at an early age so as to prevent them from misusing the digital tools. "A holistic adoption of digital wellness is very important," he added.

Meanwhile, Salik Khan, who is the social media consultant for Assam and Meghalaya Police, delivered a lecture on social media. Talking to media persons, Khan said that the whole objective of the programme is to sensitise the police officials, making them well equipped in dealing with issues like fake news, social media and cyber crimes.

"We are trying to make officials (nodal officers) from every district of the state well trained and well equipped, to have their individual social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook with an idea to communicate with the Generation X in their languages, which is the social media language," he said.

Furthermore, he informed that in present times, in as far as social media is concerned, the phrase "Survival of the fittest" is no longer apt to tackle social media problems and hence they have adopted a new approach– "Survival of the "Wittiest".

It may be mentioned that both the Assam and Meghalaya police have, in recent times, been actively involved on social media with their witty tweets and posts vis-a-vis social ills and crimes like fake news and drug abuse as a mean to get the attention of the younger generations and generate authentic information and awareness.

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Earlier, the programme was inaugurated by the Additional DGP of Meghalaya, H Nongpluh and attended by top police officials from across the districts of the state.