Beyond the Headlines: Click-baits and False news.
It does not require me to tell you what a click bait means. What worries me is the rise of false news, allegations and claims that are sold off as news, a mob culture in the online world.
Disclaimer: In this post, in no way am I supporting sexual harassment or racial profiling. Let that not be construed from my blog post.
In personal life and in business, there would always be circumstances which we can not control. What we can control is our reaction to it. We can show restraint.
Scenario 1: An unnamed blogger accuses a CEO of one of the popular YouTube Channels of sexual harassment. A couple of girls joined in, a FIR is lodged and the CEO goes missing. The unnamed blogger remains unnamed. IF after a certain period of time, nothing concrete is found against Arunabh Kumar, would the media compensate for the reputation loss?
It is very tough to build a brand. The person who makes a company has to go through a lot. It is easy for anyone to allege anything against a person who is inside the company or is a close associate of it. Who loses at the end of all these?
Scenario 2: In a lawsuit, an ex-employee who was fired by a 26-year-old CEO claims that he did not want to expand to “poor countries like India and Spain”. No sensible CEO, unless extremely racist would like to not spread his business in India; because of every logic that is backed by data. The media houses went overboard with sensationalised national pride without searching for any piece of evidence supporting the claim made by Pompliano. IF after a certain period of time this person loses his court case with Snap Inc. would the Indian media houses compensate for the company’s reputation loss in India?
This is a classic example of selling a news piggybacking on someone’s claim.
Scenario 3: Yogi Adityanath removed class based reservations in private medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh. Thankfully the respected media did not cover this news. Some sanity prevailed. But most only-online portals covered this news without putting in an iota of effort into this. Class based reservations never existed in private medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh.
This is an example of selling a news piggybacking on someone’s popularity. In the very recent past, we had news reports which investigated why Yogi Adityanath’s hair’s length is constant. His barber was interviewed and it was aired on ABP News Hindi. We also had news reports where reporters counted the number of cows Yogi has, how many he feeds with his own hands, what he feeds. Another report by a Hindi news channel flashed that previously Yogi had water from a water bottle and now has it from a steel glass.
Talking about popularity, Narendra Modi sells. Any news with his name on the headline should get clicks. Previously women never had to change their maiden surnames on their passport. But when Narendra Modi told, “From now onwards, woman will not have to change their names on their passports after marriage”, the media which includes but is not restricted to Times Now, NDTV went overboard and started publishing this as another achievement of the present government. Fact check, wut? They need clicks.
The more the clicks, the more money the online portals make from their advertisers. Simple funda.
This is not just restricted to these. In the past, we Indians thought that in India we have a “rape festival in Assam”. INDIANS believed a news satire article and shared the articles condemning a rape festival in their own culture. A rape festival, seriously? But that was 2013.
When the shares are as harmless as “UNESCO just announced Jana Gana Mana as the best national anthem of the world” or “UN just announced Narendra Modi as the best PM of the world”, we can laugh it off. But when you play with someone’s hard earned reputation over the years, it is just sad. Show restraint. Ask yourself simple questions like – is this a claim or is it backed by pieces of evidence? Is it proven? Is it a news piece or a gossip article?
Similar news articles killed Jyoti Basu before his death and Farida Jalal is very much alive. So much that she had to give a public statement that she is alive.
A completely Photoshopped news forward claimed the then US President Obama congratulated Indian Prime Minister and the Indian army for carrying out the surgical strikes against Pakistan.
Arre! How dare I forget the new Rs. 2000 note that the Hindi news channels and Whatsapp forwards claimed, had microchips to track black money using satellites even if kept 120 metres below the ground. During Demonetisation, the Government kept on changing narratives and in order to sell the news to the mass (who is believed to support the government come what may) kept supporting it. There are people who know this is false, yet they share it to either get money or engagement on their sites or to just appear well informed and knowledgeable.
Ahem, UCO Bank once published a Whatsapp forwarded news on a flex and displayed it. They did not even bother to check with RBI or the Government of India. Fact check, wut?
Imagine the world where the political leaders, companies would misuse this hyperactivity of the netizens to spread wrong information about their opponents or competitors. We would live in a world where claims would be passed off as news. We already live in a world which has coined terms like “alternate truth”, “post-truth”!
The web managers and internet analytics enthusiasts would know that people do not like reading. An average reader reads only 23 – 25% of the text written. Without trying to explain how and why these articles are spread, I would like to appeal to the readers of my blog, whom I believe are a part of the responsible readers club in India to go beyond the Headlines you see in a news link. Take some time out, read and analyse. Ask questions, not to the world, but to yourself. Ask for citations and evidence.
We should do better, as a society and be slightly more responsible.
I should end this post with something I am not proud of doing and how a person wanted to grab the opportunity. The second person did not even bother to click on the link and read.