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Role of Social Media in spreading Rumor and Propaganda

Role of Social Media in spreading Rumor and Propaganda

Hiren Pandit

In Bangladesh, social media has frequently been abused to provoke social, religious, political, and economic conflict. Misrepresentation, deception, and harmful content have caused extensive damage. Social media is being used to fan the flames of political unrest throughout this time. The Bangladesh government and law enforcement authorities will need to be more cautious in how they manage this issue if they want to keep peace in the entire country.

Nearly everyone today has a smartphone in their possession. People can easily communicate with the rest of the world from large cities to isolated villages. Through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media, everyone is instantaneously informed of what is occurring in the world. In Bangladesh, 84% of internet users have a Facebook account. Several groups are working to profit unlawfully from it.

Social media is now widespread with mis- and disinformation. Every day, tens of thousands of pieces of material with misleading information are published, and millions of people watch them. A billion individuals living in far-off places are unable to independently confirm the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information. According to the intelligence department's cyber and special crime division, people who wish to undermine the nation primarily commit crimes like disseminating misinformation.

The spread of misinformation has been a major challenge to society for democracy and peace in contemporary times. Bangladesh has historically been subjected to widespread political and communal violence caused by mis- and disinformation at different times, hindering the smooth functioning of the institutions. The popularity of social media and its increased accessibility to the masses has further complicated the fight against misinformation. Further, it is not uncommon for disinformation to make its way into the society.

Shaping a future of rights and freedom of expression drives all other human rights in Bangladesh. Misinformation online and offline proliferates with a serious impact on the institutions underpinning democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. This context necessitates that we need to take different initiatives to work with multi-stakeholders and youths, in rural areas to identify the mechanisms for countering misinformation at the local level as well as the challenges in dealing with misinformation.

In the digital age, information flows freely, but so does misinformation. In Bangladesh, journalism, like in many parts of the world, is facing an unprecedented challenge. As the nation’s media landscape evolves, journalists find themselves at the forefront of this battle to uphold truth and integrity. We need to try to explore the challenges journalism in Bangladesh faces concerning fake news and the crucial role it plays in safeguarding a democratic society.

Misinformation and disinformation have become an alarming global phenomenon, and Bangladesh is no exception. The rise of social media platforms has made it easier for false information to spread rapidly, posing a significant threat to the credibility of journalism. In Bangladesh, misinformation is prevalent on social media platforms, mostly Facebook and Messenger, which play vital roles in spreading misinformation. On social media, it often goes viral before being debunked.

Disinformation is a deliberate strategy aimed at spreading false or misleading information with the intent to deceive, manipulate, or harm individuals, groups, or institutions. This phenomenon encompasses three distinct categories: disinformation, misinformation, and misinformation, all of which can pose significant threats to journalism and the integrity of mainstream media. In these three categories, various tactics are employed to achieve their harmful goals. These tactics include the dissemination of false connections, the presentation of misleading content, the distortion of context, the creation of imposter content, the manipulation of visuals or audio, the fabrication of entirely false narratives, the release of confidential information, and the use of harassment and hate speech.

The consequences of misinformation and disinformation can be dire, ranging from inciting violence to damaging reputations and undermining trust in the media. When such occurrences persist within mainstream media, rumors have the potential to proliferate, and vested interests may seize the opportunity to exploit them. In recent times, our nation has unfortunately witnessed a series of distressing incidents, such as the Ramu, Nasirnagar, and Cumilla among others. These events have not only caused significant harm within our borders but have also had a detrimental impact on our reputation both domestically and internationally.

Bangladesh’s internet penetration rate stood at 31.5 percent of the total population, and the number of internet users has been increasing to 130.58 million. In contrast, the number of mobile phone users has reached 188 million (Source-BTRC). It means that the vast majority of the population can afford a smartphone and that information can flow freely.

One of the foremost challenges is the race to report news quickly in a round-the-clock news cycle. This push for immediacy can compromise the accuracy of information. Journalists often find themselves under pressure to break news first, leading to hastily published stories that may contain errors or unverified information. In a world where misinformation thrives on sensationalism, responsible journalism must prioritize accuracy over speed.

In the age of social media, anyone can be a source of news, making the verification of information increasingly complex. It often originates from unverified sources, anonymous accounts, or biased outlets. We should dedicate time and resources to confirm the credibility of their sources, which can be challenging in an environment where misinformation is rampant. Social media platforms tend to create echo chambers where individuals are exposed to content that aligns with their existing beliefs and biases.

This confirmation bias makes it easier for fake news to spread unchecked, as people are more likely to believe and share information that supports their views. Fact-checking should be an integral part of the process. Media outlets should dedicate resources to verifying information before publication and providing corrections when necessary. Collaborative fact-checking initiatives can also help enhance accuracy and accountability. Promoting media literacy among the public is crucial to empowering individuals to discern credible sources from misinformation. Educational campaigns and initiatives can help citizens develop critical thinking skills and navigate the digital information landscape more effectively.

The writer is a columnist and researcher

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