Ayman Zahid

The Post Truth era relates to denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion that appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Dissemination of disinformation and its impact on individuals, society, and politics is among the most debated topics of contemporary times.

Fake news and conspiracy theories are not new phenomena but pose a greater challenge in recent times. Usually, the term “fake news” is connected to social media posts with rather implausible and outlandish tales.

The social media platforms that have emerged within the scope of new technologies, and which are a new configuration of modern technology and the internet, have led social and political debates to gain new dimensions.

Social media has become an arena in which a whole range of public life events take place; they are a source of power, a potential means of influencing the masses, and of control and an investment allowing the promotion of one’s interest.

The terminology fake news entered the literature after the 2016 US Presidential Election and has been defined as “distorted signals uncorrelated with the truth.”

In a broader sense, fake news has been defined as news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and that could mislead readers.

Misinformation, propaganda, and fake news can potentially lead to the polarization of public opinion, along with promoting violent extremism as well as hate speech. Moreover, eventually, it leads to undermining democracies and reducing trust in the democratic processes.

The most striking example of the fake news that erupted during the Presidential Election was the news that the Pope had supported and approved Trump’s candidacy.

The expansive dissemination of fake news and its rapid reach to millions of people supports the thesis that the manipulations through social networks have a tremendous impact. A common maxim of propaganda is that if you repeat a lie enough it becomes the truth.

Another example illustrating the instrumentalization of social media as a tool of manipulation is the French Presidential Election of 2017.

In this case, fake news was brought to the forefront by arguments that began with the claim that Russia was tampering with the elections for a specific desired outcome brought.

In addition, with COVID-19, the amount of fake news has increased substantially and has generated situations that negatively impact public health in multiple world regions. Thus, the struggle with a pandemic as well as an infodemic was aggravated by ignorance and misinformation.

Analysts generally agree that disinformation is always purposeful and not necessarily composed of outright lies or fabrication.

It is always part of a larger plan or agenda and can be composed of mostly true facts, blended with falsehoods, or stripped of context to support the objective.

Incidents such as videos or riots inciting communal dissent become top-ranking trends easily getting millions of views within minutes. Moreover, the political leaders who look for such information to blame the opposition also play their part.

Most political parties take advantage of fake news during elections. “Companies such as Google and Facebook are trying hard to stamp out fake news, but they can’t do it alone; everyone needs to play their part.

In addition, people share fake news for a variety of reasons. They either believe it to be of interest to people or they try and portray the news as an opinion, but the main reason is to influence like-minded people in certain sections of the community.

For example, someone wanting to make money, regardless of the content of the article, or satirists who want to either make a point or entertain you.

A pertinent example once quoted by Dr. Huma Baqai is when she joined a seminar online from Washington at an Islamabad-based think tank IRS. She told the audience that while in Pakistan they were talking about EU Dis-info lab revelations.

To her surprise, the Top Google searchers in the US contrarily showed results as to how Pakistan and Turkey were collaborating to undermine India through a disinformation campaign.

States ought to adopt measures for the promotion of media and digital literacy. This should be done by including these topics in the regular school curriculum along with engaging the civil society and other stakeholders to raise awareness about these issues.

In conclusion, we would like to make a strong appeal aimed at the development of critical thinking and media literacy. In the context of fake news propaganda, people should be careful about choosing the information form.

Ideological manipulation can only be defeated if people educate themselves and actively work with information sources. Fake news often leaves information out of the story.

Double-check whether quotes attributed to a particular person or group have been represented accurately. By curtailing fake news in the post-truth era, we can help to secure a better future for our children.

 

*The writer is a PR specialist and public diplomat specializing from NUML Islamabad.

**The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues and the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.

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