Sunday Reflections – Supriyo Chakraborty

Social – an alternative media

Nowadays, digital forms of communication have gained a huge popularity than traditional media, and people are constantly accusing social media for circulating such misinformation or disinformation. News in different forms such as videos, memes and advertisements are making an alternative platform, which can be identified as social media news. But, why should I believe such news?
According to the researchers and media professionals, the problems of disinformation circulating through social media is more sophisticated and challenging in India than the Western Countries. Significant growth of internet penetration has noticed in India, from 137 million internet users in 2012 to over 600 million internet users, and WhatsApp have more than 230 million users in India. So it is quite natural that misinformation can spread on the social media. But, we need to understand the differences between social media and authorized media channels.
Is there any social media channel in India that is recognized by RNI (Office of Registrar of Newspapers for India)? Do you find any Facebook or WhatsApp user who holds a press card? Journalists have some duties and responsibilities, and they are bound to produce, reproduce and publish authentic news. Social media users are not the recognized journalists, and they do not receive any press card, free medical insurance and concession on their train reservations. In a federal structure, any government should offer such recognition to the trained professionals, and we should understand the differences between a press card and Adhaar card.
Millions of fake news spread across Facebook and Twitter, and educated responsible citizens of India cannot believe such news. “The cause of spread of fake news was that India “lacked (a) media policy for verification” – reported by the Guardian-the Indian media research agency.
Recently, few fake articles related to COVID-19 was shared and circulated on social media, and people have been received various home remedies for COVID-19. Even, the Prime Minister of India made an appeal to not believe in any rumours and we have received the same messages from Chief Ministers, political leaders, celebrities and sports-persons. So how would you identify such fake news?
An umpteenth quantity of news spreading on social media can be fake, and you should not believe such news, until you verify the sources of the news. Misinformation and disinformation are created for promotion and advertising, and people can use such platforms to promote their party, brand, products and services. Sometime, spreading negativity about rivals can bring some good news, and if you want to be a part of such promotion then you can read such arbitrary news on your Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc.
If a social media platform like Facebook is considered as “media” then we have 280 million journalists in India. According to PIB (Press Information Bureau-Government of India), satellite channels, television news agencies, radio news agencies and online media can get the required accreditation after fulfill certain criteria, and Indian Government or PIB does not endorse or recognize any social media platform.
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