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What’s Up With WhatsApp!

What’s Up With WhatsApp!

From ‘Good Morning’ messages to exchange of pleasantries; from priceless quotes to humorous contents, messaging-apps have been having a field day regaling the subscribers.

However, of late these applications too have graduated to carrying unsuitable materials for viewing with some of the more gory pictures of accident victims and such other incidents posted repulsing the public.

But nothing could be more atrocious than malicious reports of vague happenings that have no credibility going endemic on social media and raging on purely for the interest quotient that the news holds!

Apprehending the overload of stupid posts that could assail them were they to remain active on social media, many have quit the comforts of remaining in touch with contacts by altogether withdrawing from all conceivable means of social networking.

The amount of absurd and nonsensical ‘traffic’ in cyberspace has made the pastime of ‘sharing’ posts appear a gruelling recreation. Assured of no guarantee on the quality and genuineness of the posts, a backlash by critics however doesn’t dissuade people from indulging in such despicable hobbies. With the internet and social media having created a hyper interconnectedness among people, the type of false messages circulating these days is indeed a cause of extreme worry and anxiety.

Having fuelled a surge in unwanted and misleading information, fake news is a social monster that has posed a unique challenge for the police and society. People addicted to the net and various web-based and android applications are known to lap up anything dished out in the domain of the social media and without applying their minds to the veracity of the news think nothing of making the whole episode viral in record time.

The fake news of child-lifters who purportedly harvested the organs of the kidnapped created so much panic in parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana that paying heed to rumours, reports of lynching and other ‘public measures’ posed a mob crisis for the police there.

Not to say that the effects have not been all that volatile closer to home here in Goa!

Some days back, the news of the rape and murder of a nurse at Hospicio in the hospital premises shocked the locals. Later when it was clarified that no such incident took place at the district hospital in Margao, the folly of the whole matter left many concerned citizens livid with rage.

Likewise with the monsoon knocking at the doors, the social media was abuzz with photographs of the leaking roof in the new passenger terminal in operation at the International Airport in Goa. With the housekeeping staff mopping and removing pales of water from the flooded lobby, it was a pathetic scene that left nothing much to imagination.

Having bombarded various messaging apps for a couple of hours, it finally turned out that the subject in contention was not the Dabolim airport at all! But the damage was already done! The onus of a bad name is difficult for a tourism destination that boasts of the largest number of footfalls in the country to bear.

In their haste and eagerness to ‘forward’ such messages received, people forget that a little bit of prudence could save the day for everyone. The comment that ‘we need to understand when we have crossed the threshold of inoffensive into the realm of the obnoxious’ so aptly serves to be a timely warning for the unwary.

How could vivid photos and videos of gruesome incidents posted enchant people sufficiently enough to make them participate in the process of making the posts viral! They need to be cautioned that such malicious acts could get them in the ambit of law and force upon themselves unpleasant times behind bars.

The manner in which the cyber world has been evolving, it is feared that the fake news ‘trend’ will soon assume enormous proportions. Moreover, in a country like India where it is quite natural to have naïve and gullible users coming online every day, the devastating results of fake news ‘put out on air’ may have far reaching consequences.

Finding the setting extremely to his liking, Goebbels would have been one happy man were he to grace the current period. For, the use of propaganda to promote hidden agendas by vested interests has never been at its zenith as it is today, and there is no better avenue than the social media to indulge in these objectionable activities.

With more and more people falling prey to the mischievous recreation on the social media, the claim by the police that it is gearing up to deal with the social media terrorists does assume some significance. But this would not be possible without the active support of all stakeholders in the society who could come together to tackle the menace and not allow it to spread its insidious tentacles.

Mal-intent does exist in places like the internet. This is a huge challenge as fake news is a new virus that has crossed all borders and poses a grave risk for the society at large. As so rightly said, the social media has acted as a soft conduit for fake news and its perpetrators to flourish. It’s time the menace is tackled in right earnest.

As one writer observed, earlier magazines tended to follow the newspapers’ lead and expand on it. Today, print media have to do the same on the heels of the social media. This implies that fake news on social media could give print a new normal.

So the cascading effect of the social media into other channels of news deciphering has been very obvious.

However, if the social media is to set the standards for the print media to follow this would amount to the publishing all such news that scores Brownie points in the social media amongst its users without any guarantee on the authenticity of the contents.

How well does this bode for news dissemination in a country that has given new definitions to the freedom of speech of its populace!

The Fourth Estate is governed by certain rules and regulations as it gathers and filters news with a pointed attentiveness on the genuineness of the news collected. Only then does it transmit it into the public domain. The social media in stark contrast is conspicuous by any such system, even though laws to the contrary do exist.

The need of the hour is a strict adherence to a social networking policy, with an extra dollop of common sense to go with.

(Published on 25th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 26)