By Dr. Ankuran Dutta
I have arguments not to use the word ‘Fake News’. News is always news, which passes through a gatekeeping model or editorial intervention. Now a day, many people say that they read the news on social media. Are social media posts called news? No, they are mere information. They are not news, because they are self-authoring and self-publishing. News is also information that is published in newspapers and broadcast on radio and television or in news web-portal about recent events in the country or world or in a particular area of activity under an editorial process.
Although the news is published through an editorial process, the facts may be incorrect in rare situations. But they shouldn’t be labelled as ‘Fake News’. This concept of ‘Fake News’ was popularised by the US President Donald Trump during and after the presidential election in the United States, and overshadowed the concept of ‘Yellow Journalism’. Ethical Journalism Network defines that fake news is information deliberately fabricated and published with the intention to deceive and mislead others into believing falsehoods or doubting verifiable facts. If we use this terminology, fake news, or false news, can there be new terminology required for authentic news? Can it be Fact News or True News?
A report of the Council of Europe describes that there are three types of information disorder, namely, misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information. Misinformation refers to false or inaccurate information, deliberately created to deceive others. Disinformation is also about false information, deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organisation, or country. On the other hand, mal-information is based on reality but used to inflict harm on a person or an organization. Literally, there is a thin line difference between all these terms. Fake news is the umbrella term that unifies all these types of information disorder. I believe information disorder is more perfect terminology to enumerate the concept than fake news.
However, this pandemic of COVID-19 has given a new terminology- i.e. INFODEMIC-that stands for Information Pandemic or Pandemic of information disorder. A study on fake news by MIT, published in Science, showed that a fake story can reach 1500 people six times faster than a true story. That means infodemic is six times faster than Truth! Falsehood is 70 per cent more likely to get shared than the truth, said an analysis of 1,26,000 stories over ten years tweeted by 3 million users. That means Truth is no match for fake. Another study found that fake news elicited words associated with surprise and disgust, definitely more provoking than what real news elicited – sadness and trust.
This infodemic has been continuously creating a panic situation across the world. Say, for instance, the recently viral message on the new lockdown from June 15, which is not a fact. Pandemic attacks our physical health, but infodemic attacks our mental health, which isn’t less dangerous in this crisis period.
Dr. Ankuran Dutta is the head of the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University, and managing trustee of Dr. Anamika Ray Memorial Trust. He can be reached @ankurandutta on Twitter.
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