Even as the world rages with issues about ‘fake news’ on social media, India has a new unique example. This week, a Facebook parody account of politician Subramanian Swamy has released a picture of prime minister Narendra Modi having lunch with some people and added its own conspiracy theory about the PM siding with “liquor mafia.”
Within an hour of it being uploaded, the post already has more than 2,200 ‘likes’ and 720 ‘shares’. What’s more! The parody account has gone one step further to compare the PM with ‘godwoman’ Radhe Maa, with a line stating, “Lol Pure & pious Like Radhe Ganga Maa.” (sic)
Sanjeev Gupta of Global Advertisers, the patron of Radhe Maa, has taken a strong stand on such propaganda. He says, “Conspiracy theories on social media defame people. The government as well as the social media sites should find out ways to stop and even dissuade mischievous people from spreading information that unnecessarily targets celebrities and spreads dissent.” Gupta believes that, “apart from Facebook taking stringent measures, the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) should also take note of such matters.”
“Social media often takes a dig at the ‘I am pure and pious’ comment Radhe Maa had made once. We are in a democracy and constructive criticism is not a problem,” adds Global Advertisers’ publicist Dale Bhagwagar. “However, turning and twisting words and unethically linking them to the honourable PM’s name, is stretching things a bit too far,” he remarks.
It can be noted here that just last week, Hillary Clinton claimed that ‘fake news’ on social media spread through email leaks by Russians, was partly responsible for her defeat against Donald Trump in the recent US elections. Among other reasons, she argued that Russian president Vladimir Putin had personally directed a hacking operation that lost her the US presidency. Her emails leaked on Wiki Leaks are said to have been misconstrued and then widely discussed on social media.
There are concerns about the impact false information and hoaxes may have on elections in Germany, France and other European countries next year. The role of Facebook in particular, in the dissemination of ‘fake news’, has been the subject of increasing debate. Last week, Facebook rolled out some preliminary steps to combat ‘fake news’, enlisting third-party fact-checkers to assess the veracity of posts flagged by users.