From the days of the printing press, information has been democratized. Previously during the days of the printing press, information is in books they were handwritten and in hand copies. It takes years to print a book or spread information. But with the coming of the printing press, one could print thousands of books. For example, Martin Luther came up with his whole lots of questions about the Catholic Church which resulted in the recommendation of the restoration and renaissance movement. It can identify as the first information revolution.
Again information is democratized with the magic of technology which flipped the whole direction. If the printing press has democratized the spread of information, the distribution and consumption of information, the technology has democratized the production of information. And it applies on the internet also and it went loud because internet opened a free field to spread information by anybody and from anywhere like a global place that we are living. This is the second information revolution.
Cracking and receiving information from all over the world is a common thing but giving correct information is an issue in today’s world. With the coming of television also changed the structure of information. In television, we see as it is happening and the trouble with this that what we see might not always be true. There might be something behind it and lacks verification. An individual or an organization that provides information should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information.
What is Prosumer behaviour?
Anyone with a smartphone can be a video producer, a moment witnessed can be uploaded on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and that’s what makes them a publisher. Well, it is the concept of ‘prosumer’ coined by futurist Toffler in 1980. Toffler envisioned the trend of mass customization in the marketplace that consumers would partake in the producing process as producers and designers for their consumption. Publics are initially consumers but with digital media, they are now the producers as well which makes them prosumers. It is good in some aspects and harmful as well. Knowledge about correct information is essential for every individual. The recent developments of information and communication. Technologies brought about a progressive change with regard to the user’s role in online production practices and related emerging socio-technical arrangements. The ontological status of users as digital prosumers absorbs the attention of scholars in several disciplines.
So is there a problem with Misinformation?
Misinformation can lead people to an unnecessary panic attack and can lose the trust of the people. There are many stories about misinformation where people lost their lives because of this, For example, two young musicians from Assam lost their lives because of the circulation of fake information that they were child kidnappers. People misusing information and manipulating the original content is not really cool and this should not be used for the public interest. Everyone with a smartphone is doing it either intentionally or unintentionally. Rumours should be avoided. We have lots of fake stories like Kiran Bedi posting fake photos of monuments that lit up in tricolours and later on it comes that only Burj Khalifa was lightened up by tricolours. Fake news about the Assam government to print currency notes featuring late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee whereas PM Modi only releases commemorative 100 coins in the memory of late PM. And also, the story of the discovery of gold in UP where nobody did a basic check that a journalist should do before putting in the news stories. But after the geological survey of India, it was cleared that no such things were found. There was another story in 2017, Colombian singer Shakira singing Bhupen Hazarika’s song “Ganga Behti ho Kyun”. India Today TV’s anti-fake news war room found that the claim was totally wrong and the voice in the song was Purabi Mukhopadhyay. Similarly, the fake health advice like misinformation and myths about coronavirus have been spreading since 2019. All these information-sharing globally create problems among people.
How to detect fake information?
People from different parts of the world are doing work in these fake news threats and by just one click on Google, we can find many bits of advice regarding fake news circulation. But the question is how a normal person can detect several additional fake news? The Stanford History Education Group put on much information on how to deal with fake news which we can use it actually for verification. But here are three easy ways to direct the information
i- who is behind the information? Who puts up the information to inform you?
ii- What is the evidence? Have they given you enough proof that this is happening.?
iii- What do other sources say? Every now and then we have the zombie tales that are there and then go away and keep surfacing again three or two years later.
So, what should we do is ‘lateral reading’ and to look at the sources with a better reputation like THE GUARDIAN, NDTV, INDIA TODAY, TIMES OF INDIA, THE HINDU, BBC and THE INDIAN EXPRESS because these are all sources of information that are more reliable and we expect them to fact check the information before putting it up and they are not prosumers they are a journalist. As we know that the whole business of journalism is the search for truths and most importantly journalism is the ‘Discipline of Verification’. Here are some websites where we can fact check the information which is factcheck.org, Politifact, alt news, invid etc. Even if you don’t trust the mainstream media and you think it may be wrong then go and look at ‘alt news’ and ‘boom’, ‘snopes.com’ because they are doing a fact check on a very regular basis or hourly like when something comes up they quickly check and put on public. We can detect fake news on Instagram because there are sponsored accounts that can be believed. Why verification is needed?
Between today’s newspaper and tomorrow’s newspaper, there’s a 24-hour cycle which gives enough time to a reporter to check whether their publishing is verified, accurate and whether they got their numbers right. And for the public, as they are also the video producers that without any gatekeeping the information should not spread and also the information should not be filtered in different aspects. To globally connect with people correct information is needed and not following ethics should be a matter of shame to all people.
Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Puja Mahanta, The North-Eastern Chronicle