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Gaining Currency - Losing Credibility!

Social media – tool for Several fake news

The advent of digital technology has truly revolutionised the media and news business landscape, writes VIRENDRA SINGH RAWAT

What essentially proliferated as closed online community groups to share information and interests has today overwhelmed the world wide web and pushed the traditional media outlets, both print and electronic, to adopt social media as an imperative part of their reach and penetration.

Today, popular social media platforms viz. Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram et al garner more ‘hits’ or dedicated traffic of people, especially youth, than any of the established and marquee news outlets.

With user-friendly graphical interfaces, advanced applications and seamless cross-platform integration, social media has in fact become the first choice of a growing number of people, seeking news, information and infotainment content.

Over time, social media has developed into more organised and sophisticated outlets for catering not just the individual or community needs, but helping the businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed to connect with their targeted audience.

At the same time, the commercial entities, including banks, manufacturing and service companies, leverage the power of social media for their outreach activities and getting instant feedback from customers. Instances are one too many when an aggrieved customer of a company, after exploring other traditional channels of redress and failing, could effectively get his/her grievances resolved only after using the social media to lodge a complaint.

Similarly, known newspaper and news channel brands nurture a separate web and social media crew to manage their social media handles for uploading the link of important stories and events.

Top politicians, actors and business captains diligently follow the social media trends and also update their followers about their activities or thoughts on topical issues.

However, social media is not without its pitfalls. The growing culture of social media and the trend of indiscriminately posting just about anything, be it opinion or video clips, has put a question mark over the credibility of the content circulating on these platforms.

There have been numerous cases when fake news have gone viral with even the most restrained and learned personalities falling prey to the plot and reposting them with their own opinions; only to regret later. This has at times led to the filing of police cases as well after such fake news resulted in conflagration of communal disharmony or contempt of an individual’s integrity or prestige. The recent Twitter controversy is a case in point.

Any attempt by the government or the authorities, including police, to regulate social media is likened to an onslaught on the freedom of expression and free speech.

Plausibly, social media will continue to grow in future given its easy reach and the component of democratising free flow of information. However, there is also an urgent need to create a mechanism to ensure that these mediums do not become tools in the hands of criminals or phony operators to dupe gullible citizens or consumers.

However, any attempt by the government to unduly curb the social media should also be opposed vehemently in the larger interests of our vibrant democracy. *(Virendra Singh Rawat is a Lucknow based Financial Journalist and Writer)

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