Kannur: It has now become the utmost priority in India to enlighten the young generation of how to differentiate fake news from the real facts since the fake news, videos have triggered panic, fear, violence among people disturbing the peace and harmony among different communities.
A recent video of two men abducting a boy from a group of children playing on the street leaving the children in surprise was circulated widely across all social platforms which triggered huge panic among the people led to violence in many states and at least two deaths in Tamil Nadu, Indian Express reported.
But there are very few from this generation who would take some time to watch the complete video and check where the video was actually shot before acting instinctively.
The child kidnapping video which has triggered huge panic and swayed the rumors of child kidnappers turned out to be only an awareness campaign initiated by Pakistani NGO but hate mongers similar to this incident, edit videos, pictures in order to disturb the harmony and enrage common man into acting instinctively which most often ends in tragic incidents and crimes.
A 15-year old Niranjana K and other students of a government school in Kerala’s Kunnur patiently were lucky to watch the unedited video of the much-circulated kidnapping video.
“I did see the video on my brother’s smartphone. I did not know then it was false or that it was not even shot here,” says Niranjana, a student of the school in Shala.
This flood of lies, misinformation, rumours and hate distributed on social media such as Whatsapp, Facebook, by hate mongers, radical outfits are giving rise to new crimes, inhuman activities, and tragic ends.
One of the latest victims to this rumor is a man from Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja was brutally hacked to death on Friday, after villagers suspected him to be child kidnapper.
These rumours fueled with hatred and shared across social media led to several killings in Jharkhand last year. Murder of an autorickshaw driver in Telangana and a man from Rajasthan in Bengaluru last month, and the lynching of two men in an Assam village two weeks ago.
But this Kannur district administration in Kerala is determined to teach their students the right lessons of differentiating fake news videos from the real ones.
Starting this month, the administration has decided to run a programme called Satyameva Jayatein which teachers in 150 government schools in Kannur will be training students of Classes VIII to XII on how to spot false news and information, the lure of sensational news and the idea of the “filter bubble”.
District collector Mohammad Mir speaking aboy the programme said they are trying to inculcate the spirit of Article 51 (A) (h) of the Constitution of India, which calls upon citizens “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.”
District panchayat president K V Sumesh said: “Across the country, rumours are leading to violence. It hasn’t happened here. But we want to train children to find out what the reality is, to become curious of what the facts are.”
Mir continued saying “One of the most common fake news I have to debunk in Kannur is that since it is raining heavily, the collector has declared a holiday. But in 2016, rumours of child kidnappers had led to people from Tamil Nadu, or simply people who looked unfamiliar, to be tied to posts and beaten up.”
He recalls a 2017 measles-rubella vaccination campaign in the district which was also edited. “It was sophisticated propaganda. A letter, purportedly by a doctor, warning against the MR vaccine was being sent from phone to phone. Some other message arguing that schools did not have the facilities to store the vaccine. We traced some of the messages to a few jobless youth. They were doing it for the heck of it. Some people just like to watch the world burn,” said Mir.
The Nipah virus rumor that has engulfed almost the whole nation, Mir says was first reported from adjoining Kozhikode district which convinced the collector that someone had to douse the fire. “Children can be taught to be sceptical, and that can have a definite influence on their parents’ behaviour. We have seen that in other programmes too.”
Out of 150 teachers training the students, Bindu madhavan, 47, who teaches Physics and IT at GHSS, Shala asks her students: “What if you get a message that Bindu Ma’am has slapped a student in Class X?”
“How many of you will forward it?” One hand goes up, tentatively. “But how do you know it is true? Have you asked me?” asks the teacher again.
This training programme has a protocol on how to deal with fake news:
*check the source of the information, and ask the person to furnish the source as well. Not just that asks the sender to forward only if he has the source.
She further adds for those students who are on their own to dig the truth, Google is the solution, “But even there, you should not believe anything and everything. Are the main newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express, Mathrubhoomi, Malayalam Manorama saying this? Or have you got the information from a website like zigzagnews.com?”
The programme also emphasizes on the recklessness of sharing such messages- “Do not just say forwarded as received. Do you know a man in Kannur has been arrested for spreading the fake news that eating chicken can lead one to contract Nipah virus?” she asks.
After the first phase of the programme is over in three months, the district administration intends to take the message to parent-teacher-association meetings as well.
The administration does not want this to end as just one time lecture that can be easily forgotten. “To make sure they don’t, we also give exercises.
For instance, in one class, I asked the students to find the statement from Unesco, which declared that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was the best anthem in the world,” and surprisingly the students found out that it was only an exercise to spot the fake news said Mir.