The fake news has caused more damage than any other way adopted to influence people. Micro-targeted advertising is used to spread the fake news and influence users into believing something false. Fake news played a crucial role in influencing outcome of 2016 presidential elections in the U.S. Major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been reprimanded by lawmakers for their inability to stop the spread and asked to take necessary preventive measures. Various governments have taken necessary actions to tackle the fake news syndrome. Indian government took a major decision regarding this. The Union ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) announced that journalists’ accreditation will be withdrawn if found guilty of spreading the fake news. The accreditation will be lost for limited life or permanently, depending upon the frequency of violations.
The complaints about fake news will be referred for determination to the Press Council of India (PCI) for violations in print and the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) for violations on TV. However, the statement from MIB did not include digital media. However, Smriti Irani, the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Minister of India said previously that the government would frame rules for digital media too. She outlined that the line of ethics and code of conduct need to be placed to prevent customers from getting affected. The fake news syndrome has been influential in the U.S. elections and worries have been rising in India that it would be influential in Indian parliamentary elections due next year.
“We have the Press Council of India for newspapers which is different from government and still self-regulatory enough to awaken its own conscience and take a decision that will bar such processes. Similarly, for television news you have the News Broadcasters Association. I’m hopeful that such a similar body will also emerge for social media at least in the news, opinion and entertainment content,” said Irani, at a recent conference in New Delhi, India.
The Indian government has not defined what constitutes a fake news. There is a huge probability that this decision will be misused by politicians and others to suppress the truth. Journalists may reveal the truth in front of the world, and if the truth causes harm in terms of reputation or loss of power, it is likely that the law will be used against those journalists as a personal vendetta. Through conspiracies and fake evidences, those vulnerable people will try to prove journalists wrong and cost them their accreditation. Many journalists have welcomed the decision to promote ethical journalism. On the other hand, many have criticized it outlining that its misuse may silence the truth. While, some of the journalists and reporters have condemned the decision, highlighting that it may deprive them of freedom of expression.
Citizens of India have been expressing their opinions through various social media platforms. As the saying goes, “a guilty conscience needs no accuser,” some of the citizens opined that those raising a voice against the decision have been spreading the fake news and this will prevent them from doing it. Many citizens welcomed the decision as they think it will prevent media from spreading clutter and senseless news meant only to gain attention. This decision will also enforce journalists and reports to check facts and research thoroughly before presenting any news. Only time will tell the effect of this decision based on its implementation and execution.