Ps & Qs Education

What are you sharing? Sharing fake news is as bad as setting off a fire

Fake changing to fact with wooden cubes. ( 3d render )

Fake changing to fact with wooden cubes. ( 3d render )   | Photo Credit: Eoneren

Pause before you endorse a post or a forwarded message, sharing fake news is as bad as setting off a fire

The other day, I received a message on WhatsApp about something critical. Usually, I ignore such forwarded messages whose authenticity can be questioned. But I read it and worse — shared it with another group. Of course, the well-intentioned “news” was a hoax. Not only did I feel cheated and furious but felt awful that I had fallen prey too. I’am referring to this hugely invasive phenomenon called fake news, and how we all have a huge responsibility towards curbing it.

Now why is this relevant, especially in the corporate world?

Everybody is a journalist these days. And with the deceptively powerful social media, it has become extremely easy to spread fake news, create panic, drum up support for dangerous causes and so on. And when we, as employees of a particular organisation, contribute to this phenomenon, we end up affecting that organisation’s brand as well.

Validation

Appropriate behaviour on social media, as I have discussed here before, constitutes not only being aware of the kind of content we write, but also supporting other content, especially if it is unverified. Every time we like, comment positively — or, worse — we are validating content, even if it is false.

“News” or “information” promising a cure for lifestyle diseases, diet plans for complex medical conditions, politically incorrect and culture-insensitive ‘jokes’ and even weather predictions are making their rounds on various social media platforms, these days. And we end up feeling just a little bit of joy when it is positive “news” and a little sad, when it is not. As human beings, we end up sharing these emotions along with the news that prompted them in the first place.

But, what about misleading, destructive posts which incite undesirable effects? How many of us are able to discern this? How often do we ignore the exaggeration and melodrama which drown the facts?

As responsible individuals of a society, as employees of an organisation, we are all obliged to weed out the bad from the good and not fall prey to fake news. Let us say we feel compelled to correct that fake news publicly, or put out views on any social medium, especially if it is about a sensitive subject, perhaps it is best to not mention your affiliation to your company in your profile. We could also add a disclaimer that the views are personal and do not represent the organisation. There are also individuals who carry two separate accounts — one corporate and the other personal.

Back in my college days, when social media was still a dormant beast or when even Internet was a luxury, there were lesser problems to worry about. We had the newspapers and television channels that were orthodox. Of course, there was (and there still is) yellow journalism but it was one less enemy to take down, compared to today.

Perhaps, life would have been simpler and less complicated with lesser technology.

However, the issue is not technology, it is the people who tackle it. It is us. So, next time you receive a well-meaning forwarded message, or you see a post, think twice before you like it or share it with others. Take a few minutes to verify its authenticity before endorsing it. Because upholding fake news is as bad as setting off a fire.

The writer is a poet and literary journalist. She also heads Corporate Communications at UST Global. Twitter: @anupamaraju

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Printable version | Mar 26, 2020 5:42:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/what-are-you-sharing/article29118253.ece

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