When havoc unravelled on JNU campus on Sunday, my Twitter timeline was flooded with messages and information, both from individual accounts and news agencies. Some people had also shared video clips, reportedly from the incident, that would send shivers down any viewer's spine. As the news spread, it progressively became difficult to separate fact from the fictitious narrative. Tweets were claiming an acid attack on the university premises, though when I scoured the news I couldn't find any corroboration. On Social Media, this is an ordeal I have been coming face to face with quite frequently these days, and it is alarming.
There is no doubt that as of now we are a nation engulfed by turmoil, but no matter what side you are on, it is crucial to fact-check what you share, because if you don’t, you may end up worsening the situation, fuelling animosity and even putting someone’s well-being at risk.
The emotions are running high right now. It isn’t easy to see images of students bleeding, universities thrashed and the protesters and the police clash. The unrest, anxiety and the zeal to participate in this political movement that is currently underway both on social media and on our streets, often get to us. We see a tweet, and we retweet it. We read a message and we forward it. But how many of us take a moment to consider what we are about to send across to our friends and family members? How our messages or videos will influence the mindset of those who receive it? Besides, if you truly care about the agenda that you advocate, you’d not top it up with unverified content, would you? Won't your argument or stand on an issue lose conviction, if fake news backs it? These questions carry even more weight now than ever before.
While sharing anything on social networking platforms, one needs to ask how catastrophic a baseless video or message could be. It could aggravate an already tense situation, and it could also misguide people. Just a few days ago, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan shared an old video from another country, alleging it to a proof of Indian police brutality against the minority. This shows how even public figures and leaders aren’t immune to the menace of fake news. When a person with a reach of millions, thousands or even hundred shares incorrect information, it influences the gaze of those who follow them. This cycle of sharing baseless information only repeats itself with each person that chooses to share it, unless you put a stop to it. And how does one do that?
If you see someone share false information/data/messages/videos on your messaging groups or social media, question them about the authenticity of the content.
Here are some tips to use social media responsibly:
- Always share news from authentic sources and news agencies you trust.
- Have patience. Don’t be in a hurry to share a video or breaking news that you have just received. Even if it appeases your agenda and political gaze, run it by search engines and cross-check content for authenticity first.
- If you see someone share false information/data/messages/videos on your messaging groups or social media, question them about the authenticity of the content. They may choose not to reply but merely leaving such a comment will alert others in their social networking circle and make them question its authenticity.
- If you doubt about the authenticity of the content you shared, delete it immediately, no matter how many retweets and likes it has received. Remember, no amount of likes or shares are worth the accountability of spreading lies and hatred.
- If any of your friends have ended up resharing fake news via you, apologise to them and let them know the truth.
Responsible sharing on social media is our duty. What you share may shape where activism and outrage head in this country now. This phase may pass, but the onus of our likes, retweets will follow us for a lifetime and beyond. Which is why every time you lift your finger to like, retweet, share or forward anything, ask yourself, what am I sharing?
Picture Credit: Teiuvo
The views expressed are the authors' own.