GUWAHATI, April 7 – As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, fake news is taking social media – whether it is WhatsApp or Facebook – by storm.
In the vast social media platforms, fake news on various aspects of the coronavirus from offering unverified home remedies to tackling the virus is spreading. Phones are being overloaded with fake advisories asking people to avoid certain foods, besides sharing conspiracy theories.
Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Journalism and Media Studies of Cotton University Dr Sayanika Dutta said, “During the time of this crisis, a fake
news ‘infodemic’ is spreading on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms with numerous false claims. It is becoming difficult for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it. However, some small steps can be taken to stop it, like checking/verifying the source before believing or forwarding the information in any form.”
She added that fake information is forwarded mainly for two reasons – first some people want to do it to spread rumours or any kind of false information, and secondly some people think the message would benefit others, so without checking the credibility of the information received, they forward it to others. “The solution lies in unified websites related to COVID-19 or dedicated fake news columns for the common people. For authentic information, the Assam Police twitter handle and government officials can be the sources,” she added.
She said people should take a pledge not to forward unnecessary messages to cut the chain of fake news whether it is on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social media platform.
On April 2 the State government constituted a committee for monitoring and checking fake news in all forms of the media.
The five-member committee is headed by Anupam Choudhury as chairperson. The others include member-secretary Pradeep Brahma and members Munindra Ngate, Rajiv Saikia and Muktaram Deka.
Till date, Assam Police has registered 12 cases in connection with fake news. Seven people have been arrested, 80 people counselled and more than 100 posts have been pulled down and many social media accounts blocked.
“We are continuously monitoring the situation. Stringent action is being taken against anyone spreading COVID-19-related rumours or provocative content on social media,” committee chairperson Choudhury said.
“We are also continuously sensitising the public about misinformation. Dedicated phone numbers have also been released to fight against fake news amid the crisis. In case anyone comes across any fake news, they can inform us,” he added.
Choudhury urged the public to believe only the official information. People can visit the govt website www.assam.gov.in for information related to COVID-19, he further said.
SOURCE: Assam Tribune