Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, speaking at a session titled ‘Building trust in a digital world’ organised by Times Internet to launch Times Fact Check initiative, said that fake news is a national threat and government is exploring ways to curb its spread.
The minister said that it is a matter of grave concern for all of us. “Fake news is a national threat. Somebody does not want you to know the truth.”
“We are a democracy that thrives on the fact that people can, and must, have difference in opinion. The government will always keep in mind that whatever restriction is brought about is minimal, without breaching privacy, and at the same time, protecting the citizens,” said Rathore.
He noted that the issue of fake news and misinformation is a ‘catch 22 sort of a situation’ and the government will always uphold the citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression.
Mr Rathore termed fake news as a fifth-generation disinformation warfare. He said that while our soldiers protect us physically, fake news can cross borders and reach the remotest of people and disrupt sanity of the nation.
Citing an example of the reach of internet and how easy it is to spread disinformation he said, “In a small place like Kotputli (Rajasthan), with a population of less than 50,000, a man who runs a mobile phone shop told me he sells 4,000 to 5,000 mobile phones a month, 50% of which are smartphones. Hence, all of them have access to WhatsApp and Facebook.”
He stressed on the need for a collaborative approach to tackle fake news. He mentioned that the journalist should check for facts before publishing a story. He said, “Journalists have a code of conduct for themselves. In a society we always have a code of conduct, a sense of grace that we must all follow.”
He said one should be careful about sharing information. “When you forward a message, you, in a sense, become the author of it. Before hitting that forward button or that share button, take a minute to check news websites if the information is correct. Awareness is key. Kids should be taught about fake news in school; parents should tell kids too.”