Is Social Media fueling Intolerance?

According to Council of Europe, a leading human rights organization, “Intolerance is a lack of respect for practices or beliefs other than one’s own. It also involves the rejection of people whom we perceive as different, for example members of a social or ethnic group other than ours, or people who are different in political or sexual orientation. Intolerance can manifest itself in a wide range of actions from avoidance through hate speech to physical injury or even murder.” In Indian context social or ethnic groups could mean marginalised castes or people belonging to minority religions.

It is an undeniable fact that intolerant content is circulated on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, user-generated content websites like Youtube, and mobile phone chat applications like WhatsApp. Discrimination, hate speech, threats of violence are new normals of our society.

Voices from the Neighborhood

To understand what Mumbra thinks about intolerance spread through digital media, we talked to some of its residents.

Anam Khan, 34, a homemaker, said that “WhatsApp is being used to spread fake news. People take videos of a society dispute and share it as if it is a religious or political issue. They also share old videos to instigate the people”. She often gets videos or messages that are very disturbing and provocative.

Salma, 34, an entrepreneur, believes that some people on social media spread risky content to get likes and subscriptions. They convert simple news into something sensational by adding lies”.

On asking how both of them verify content they receive, they said they particularly don’t take any step to verify what people share with them. But, they added, that they both have some people on WhatsApp groups who verify some of the content.

Vijay, 18, a student also agrees that WhatsApp and Facebook are helping spread fake news among the community. He said, “sometimes I receive messages on WhatsApp groups that were inflammatory, but I do try to find the truth and inform other”.

Consequences

It is safe to assume that everybody who is using social media is getting these disturbing contents. Mostly these contents are politically motivated. People in power use fake news and provocative content to spread lies which sometimes mislead people. Several attacks, some deadly because of circulation of inflammatory content or fake news on child lifters and cow smugglers. Because such crimes are being committed regularly most people do not pay a lot of attention to them. They have become quite ‘normal’ in our society. Criminal activities against the marginalized sections of the society and protection given to people who commit such activities is one of the major signs of Fascism.

What Can be Done?

Verify

To all people we asked mostly they never try to verify any content.first step to fight against fake content is to discovering the truth.so verify before believing or sharing it.

Diversifying sources

Diversifying means checking same news through different sources and channels. We can subscribe to different news papers / news feeds for verifying the contents.

Reporting

Once you find the truth, share it with other people. 

Community initiative and campaign:

Fake news is a social problem. We can only fight against it by educating people. The campaign should be in both modes online and offline.

Digital platforms like” Alt news” can also be used to fight against fake contents. Alt news finds the source of any news and based on the sources and materials they verify news content.

Fake news seems to be unstoppable, but it isn’t. We just have to educate ourselves create awareness among the masses about the fake content and ways to fight against it.

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