CHECK IT

COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations)

“CHECK IT” 

An Initiative to Delegitimize Fake News

Slogan: CHECK IT and Save a Life!

“Fake News” is not a new term. Many people have used it for years. But it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate, social order, and peace. There is a worldwide concern over fake news/misinformation and the possibility that it can influence political, economic and social well-being and in some cases lead to violence.

Perceived Legitimacy of the Printed Word and Broadcasted Images: Before the internet, it was much more expensive to distribute information, building up trust took years, and there were much simpler definitions of what constituted news and media and required regulation or self-regulation an essential professional norm. Hence most information received as a printed word through newspapers and magazines and as radio messages and television broadcasts had come to acquire a sanctity and legitimacy for people at large primarily due to the integrity and due diligence exercised by the broadcasters before making the material public.

As a result, all printed word and broadcasted messages are perceived by most people as true, sacrosanct and to be accepted without doubt.

However, in the 20th century, new forms of mass communication have allowed propaganda’s scale and persuasive power to grow, particularly during wartime and in fascist regimes. Further, the rise of social media has broken down many of the boundaries that prevented fake news from spreading in democracies. In particular, it has allowed anyone to create and disseminate information, especially those that have proven most adept at “gaming” how social networks operate.

It is important to note that all fake news/misinformation being spread through different social media platforms illegitimately misuses the sanctity of the printed word and broadcasted messages embedded in the minds of people to spread and perpetuate itself.

The Enormity of the Challenge:

A study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published in Science, shows that fake/false news spreads significantly faster and wider than true news. Social media and instant-messaging services have become tools to spread false information. Since social media is an unregulated form of media and anyone and everyone can participate in publishing news, the possibility of the news being untrue are high, despite this, the news being circulated on social media still enjoys sanctity in the minds of general public which increases the risk of Fake News affecting the people and society in all the negative and damaging ways.

Why is Fake News attractive?

People share disinformation for a variety of reasons, some being as follows:

  1. People prefer information that confirms their pre-existing attitudes (selective exposure)
  2. People view information consistent with their pre-existing beliefs as more persuasive than dissonant information (confirmation bias)
  3. People are inclined to accept information that pleases them (desirability bias)
  4. People are inherently drawn to headlines that are sensational and cause an emotional rise
  5. The false news is often splashier than the truth (although the real news has been plenty bizarre in recent years), and perceived as more novel.

The truth is rarely diffused to more than 1000 people, the top 1% of false-news cascades routinely and is diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people.

Some Appalling Statistics

  • It takes the truth about six times as long as the falsehood to reach 1500 people.
  • Falsehood is diffused significantly more broadly and is broadcasted by more unique users than the truth at every cascade depth.
  • The false political news is also diffused deeper more quickly and reaches more than 20,000 people nearly three times faster than all other types of false news reaching 10,000 people.

Objective:

To sensitize and educate people to delink the perceived legitimacy of all printed word and broadcasted messages and properly verify the veracity before accepting and more importantly sharing it with others, especially on social media platforms.

Strategy:

There are many groups in India and abroad that are dedicated to tracking and exposing fake news. The techniques used by them and the detailed manner in which the fabrications and photoshopped images and manipulated videos are exposed can very well enable the human mind to delink the acquired legitimacy of the printed word and broadcasted messages. What is needed is bringing into the public domain the very large treasure trove of fake news already exposed by these groups so people begin to internalize the reality of fake news, understand the social harm and violence it can generate and think before they share anything. SMHoax Slayer alone has exposed over 12,000 fake news posts but very little of it finds its way into the general public domain.

So what is required is regular and consistent exposure of all that is identified and shown as fake news through different mainstream and social media platforms till people begin to understand and delink legitimacy from the printed word and broadcasted messages and come to use their own considered discretion and due diligence before accepting the veracity of any information and a cautious attitude when it comes to sharing. This may take two to three years even to make a beginning and over time this could enable responsible engagement of people with social media.

Second, the fake news is addressed and exposed after it has caused some harm including instigation of violence. So what is required is a proactive approach where social media is closely monitored to sniff out any fake news that starts to circulate and is exposed and the truth propagated before it can cause any harm and lead to violence. The window available may be just a few hours or at most a day or two before the damage is done and hence the electric response mechanism is required. One possibility could be a collaboration of the CHECK IT Group with the police department who also monitor social media and can be alerted for any possible social discord or violence that could start as a result of the circulation of some fake news.

Finally, the police can play a critical role in changing the sharing behavior of people by taking action against all those responsible for circulating any fake news. Adequate laws are already in place and some more strengthening may be achieved through advocacy. If some people are punished for spreading fake news, most would take care and the menace of fake news could be addressed to a large extent. 

Partners:

  1. CHECK IT Team
  2. Fake News Buster Groups like AltNews, SMHoaxSlayer, and others. COVA is already in touch with some of them to come on board and partner with the Project.
  3. Newspapers and TV Channels: leading national and local newspapers and TV channels have agreed to the proposal of COVA to carry daily / regular items on fake news exposures- both past and current.
  4. Religious Leaders: COVA has an Interfaith Forum comprising of leaders of different faiths. All have agreed to speak about the CHECK IT Program and Fake News in their weekly sermons in Satsangs, Mosques, and Churches etc. and also display posters on the topic in their places of worship.
  5. Enlistment of Youth and Groups active on social media platforms to propagate information about Fake News and constantly caution people about its social costs and violent outcomes.
  6. Collaboration with schools and colleges to sensitize students to the phenomenon and its dangers
  7. The Police department for collaboration in monitoring onset of Fake News items and bringing the instigators to book
  8. Lawyers, social media experts, and legislators to relook and frame appropriate laws to deal with the menace.

Activities:

  1. Proactive Tracking and exposure of Fake News
  2. Enabling people to share/forward any news/material they receive to a dedicated WhatsApp number or an email Id managed by the CHECK IT Team to get its veracity checked.
  3. Extensive propagation of the exposures through mainstream and social media platforms.
  4. Propagation through religious groups and education institutions
  5. Liaison with the Police.
  6. Collaboration with lawyers and legislators for formulating/strengthening appropriate laws.
  7. Training of people from Telugu and subsequently other regional languages to identify and expose Fake News in their languages. 

Output:

  1. Proactive identification of Fake News Material coming into circulation
  2. Exposure to Fake News Items
  3. Extensive propagation of Fake News Items
  4. Decrease in the indiscriminate forwards by people
  5. Prevention of possible violence 

Impact: 

The nature of engagement of people with social media changes to make them responsible users and check discord and violence that could be spread in society through the medium of social media.

APPLY NOW to learn ‘Decoding Fake News’ in COVA’s CHECK IT TechCamp- Partner to Secure Cyber Space for Peace.
Please click the link below to apply:
https://docs.google.com/…/1ZYqBVzSontWhKvyQo0necEvZtSa…/edit

Also, please click the link below to show your knowledge of social media:
https://docs.google.com/…/1x8evsaSh78kMeDlq60b_WI1jnXq…/edit

Prepared by:

Dr. Mazher Hussain

Executive Director

COVAMob:9394544244

Email: mazher@covanetwork.org

and covanetwork@gmail.com

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