Fake news is the kind of news that consists of propaganda, conspiracy, delusion, misinformation, rumour and so on. Conroy et al says, “Fake news is a piece of information that appears to be news but lacks a factual foundation for its claims”. It can be in favour or against the government and its regime. Fake news gets spread purposely from triggering groups through mass media including the internet and social media in favour of political and interest groups. Bangladesh is also not out of this persuasive media communication.
Fake news and Bangladesh- A Background:Since the Liberation War of 1971, Bangladeshi people have been confronting many genres of fake news and propaganda. During the Liberation, Pakistani news media purposefully spread fake news against the Bangladesh liberation movement, striving to show the activities as terrorist activities. However, Bangladeshi media and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman countered this type of fake news very well. Though it was mostly through newspaper and TV channels, after the commencement of the Internet, Bangladeshi people started undergoing a new fake news phase of mass media, especially the social media. Being a major part of internet, social media makes it easier for some people, particularly the internet savvy youths to spread fake news intentionally.
Some Bangladeshi youths are found prone to spread fake news for various political interest groups. Since 1/11, the youths are using social media and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in favour of their leaders, fulfilling their agenda of getting mass support. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the online world in various dynamic ways. In 2020, many groups spread Coronavirus related fake news, propaganda and rumours, later it extended to the Corona vaccine too. Some fanatics even question the very existence of COVID-19.
Impacts of Fake News on the Youths of Bangladesh:
Incidentally or coincidentally, biased and prejudiced youths are prone to spread fake news. The history of fake news in the mass media was voluminous by the time Bangladeshi media and people experienced this part of mass media. A revolutionary change appeared on this part after the entry of Google and Facebook. The youths of Bangladesh have persuasively been engaged in social media after 2008, being influenced by the different agenda groups in social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube made it easier for them. Being biased with some religious and political groups, youths misuse these platforms for various political and interest groups. Picking up recent examples of Modi's visit to Bangladesh and the activities of Hefazat leader Mamunul Haque, we are acquainted with the phenomena of social media that went on a few weeks ago. Some Islamic and other religious groups like ISKCON use these platforms for radicalising their target group youths. This is the way how many religious youths are radicalised in Bangladesh. Some other points are elaborately discussed in the viewpoints below.
1. COVID-19 and Info-medic:
It was in December 2019 when COVID-19 was first found in Wuhan, China. This is called a pandemic rather than an epidemic because it swept throughout the world in a very short period. Millions of people got infected and many died from this virus. Since its outbreak in Bangladesh, the people have witnessed many rumours and fake news about this virus. Thankuni Pata (Centella Asiatica), water of bamboo, tea leaf and so many other things were suggested by many people for fighting this virus. Even some religious leaders started misleading by saying that 'there is no virus'. People became terrorised and panic stricken. These info-medic ideas influenced this science-based generation.2. Social Media is the core driver of Fake News:
Social mediums like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other software and apps of social media are leading the way of spreading fake news. Not having any 'fake news tracker' and 'false news detector', social mediums have become the core drivers of spreading fake news. Thereby making innocent minded and inexperienced people their victims. Let alone the media agencies, unprecedentedly, even a president may lead rumours like what Donald Trump did about the Capitol Hill riot. Trump lost his official Twitter ID but what about other fake news spreader accounts? This is the same in the perspective of Bangladesh, although our government is dealing with it well.
3. Radicalisation of the Youths:
Radicalisation implies adopting an ideology or viewpoint being a radical opposing other social, political and religious parties, issues and views. Nowadays, social media are leading this very powerfully. Many youths are biased and prone to see ideological posts and videos on social media. Even if their chosen groups and pages on Facebook share fictitious news, they surmise it to be true without any question. This is the pathetic influence of social media in radicalising the youths.
On the whole, fake news is an indispensable but debauched part of the media. The media industry like newspapers, TV channels, social media and other platforms should be more concerned with the harmful part of media that leads people in erroneous ways. In Bangladesh, most people and certainly the youths are modernising their thoughts and lifestyles day by day. So, it is high time to invent an effective device to detect false news to save 'our youths' in this 4.0 industrial era.
Kawsar Uddin Mahmud, student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.