THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 MAY 2019 (In the age of social media, the credibility of content is an important issue (The Hindu))

In the age of social media, the credibility of content is an important issue (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Security
Prelims level: Fake news
Mains level: Fake news impact

Context

  • In the digital age, where copious amounts of free information is available in public domain, the menace of misinformation, propaganda and personal attacks is bound to exist. It is certainly not new in the world of social media. In the last few months, however, social media has been at its worst. At the same time, it is also struggling, taking baby steps towards improving itself.
  • Riding on networking, information sharing and propaganda, political parties have set up war rooms, garages and factories.
  • Hours and days at a stretch are being spent to manufacture disinformation, disseminate it through public or private communication channels, and wait for it to play up.

Background

  • India has witnessed unprecedented levels of misinformation, lies, fables and manufactured statistics being fed to people through their mobile devices.
  • The systematic, organised way in which large amounts of misinformation is reaching the masses is leaving the public confused between right and wrong and between relevant and
    irrelevant.
  • Adding fuel to the raging fire is the usual public apathy towards “fact-checking” and verifying the information they are consuming.
  • Mainstream media houses, with their political biases and jingoism in prime time spotlight, have blurred the lines between fake and fact, reporting and opinion, objective and subjective.
  • Gone are the days of media objectivity. And, unfortunately, the systematic and organised voices are louder even though they may not be credible.

Credible source

  • Believers are following a storyline and their influencers; non-believers are following the other narrative that feeds their ideas leaving them in an echo chamber of toxic information.
  • With mainstream media channels, in many cases, becoming the mouthpieces of political parties, believers don’t get to hear the non-believer’s storyline with objectivity and non-believers don’t get to hear the believer’s storyline with objectivity.
  • People find it easier to believe a piece of information if it aligns with their political, religious or personal ideology or biases and favourites.
  • They ignore the idea that their friends, family or networks could also be pushing misinformation, by choice or by chance.
  • After all, misinformation manufacturers aren’t just working out of their head offices in the national capital, but are even operational at the district, block and village level.
  • They are using the media of text messages, voice notes, photographs and videos; and they are grabbing the attention of their audiences through humour, sarcasm, memes and gifs.
  • If everything fails, they return to the usual emotional approach — a misguided sense of religious and nationalist identities.

Way forward

  • In a country of 900 million Indian voters, at least 200 million use social media and instant messaging platforms on a daily basis.
  • Each one of them is connected to hundreds and thousands of individuals, mostly those with a mobile phone in their hands but some also who have no devices.
  • The problem, however, does not lie in the platforms, it lies with the people.
  • The masses have not been trained and equipped to produce content.
  • They are largely consuming content, and passing it on further for the sheer enjoyment of sharing, without pausing and thinking about its consequences.
  • The scale and volume at which misinformation is being created; we may need to develop large scale cadres of MIL experts (media information literacy experts) at community levels to reinstall our messaging patterns.
  • If this isn’t done on a priority basis, our society is at a serious risk of information toxicity.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) "This temple was built over a period of centuries. While inscriptions suggest that the earliest shrine dated to the ninth-tenth centuries, it was substantially enlarged with the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire. The hall in front of the main shrine was built by Krishnadeva Raya to mark his accession to the throne. The marriage of the local mother goddess, Pampadevi, is celebrated annually in this temple." Which temple is being referred to in the paragraph given above?

(a) Brihadiswara temple
(b) Virupaksha temple
(c) Lingaraja temple
(d) Guruvayur temple

Ans: B
Mains Questions:

Q.1) The scale and volume at which misinformation is being created; we may need to develop large scale cadres of MIL experts at community levels to reinstall our messaging patterns. If this isn’t done on a priority basis, our society is at a serious risk of information toxicity. Comment.

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