Through cunning machination, fake news and disinformation have come to be, not just a jarring challenge to getting the correct information but also their rampant spread is posing an enormous security challenge worldwide.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, issued dire warnings last month stating that fake news outlets have proliferated at an alarming rate and have co-opted the look, feel and namesake of popular and regularly visited news sites. This puts the burden of determining the accuracy of the news squarely on the consumer.
Popular social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and others have unwittingly provided the mechanism and platform for a lot of this to evolve and thrive.
Although some have pointed to satirical news sites like the Onion and Newsthump as having led the way to the insidious spread of fake news, this theory serves as a feeble argument at best. Satirical news sites have always been open about their mission. Newsthump explains its mission openly with the line, 'Why ruin a perfectly good story with the truth.'
The objective of fake news, and its very survivability depends on misleading the reading public into believing that their sites tell the truth. They not only publish routine lies packaged as news, but also do so with the intent to alter perceptions in a dangerous way through distortion and instilling doubt in the minds of readers of regular news channels.
Bringing these nefarious sites to light is critical to preserving the value of real news dissemination and uphold the chief function of worthy news sites. Wikipedia offers a compilation of fake news sites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites
In India, WhatsApp has been the primary platform through which fake news stories have been spread. WhatsApp provides a valuable service to users across the globe, enabling hitherto unprecedented ability for conversation and connectivity. Facebook, WhatsApp's parent company, has announced publicly that it recognizes the challenge in this space and has made public pronouncements to curtail the spread of such news sites.
As with the evolving story of technology getting more and more embedded in our lives, it has hopefully made us savvier with time. In due course, the general public will wisen up to the many loopholes smart phones possess that allow them to radically diminish the value of regular news.
It becomes the responsibility of worthy and dependable news organizations to call attention to the prolific nature of falsehoods being spread and to caution readers of the risks of fake news intake.
Respectable news organizations will be tasked with educating the public by flagging the bad players frequently. It also becomes paramount that reliable news agencies fact check their own news sources stringently and with even more rigor so as to restore and maintain faith in the core value of news organizations that are a beacon of information every day.