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Untruth Prevails

Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill

Fear is trending and violence is a ping away, why does fake news make India erupt?

Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill
Photograph by PTI
Shillong is pushed into curfew as fake news about the death of a tribal causes a riot- like situation in the hill town
Tales From The 4G Rumour Mill
outlookindia.com
2018-06-11T14:13:39+05:30

Memories of Haze

  • Bangalore 2012 This was one of the early episodes of chaos induced through social media.  Messages claiming that people, largely students, from the Northeast were being targeted in Bangalore by locals were circulated via social media, still at a somewhat nascent stage. What followed was a mass exodus ­attempt by people from Northeastern states with thousands rushing to the railway station to flee the virtually created hostile vibe.
  • Muzaffarnagar 2013 The main spark of the 2013 communal riots in Muzzafarnagar was a stray WhatsApp video. The video, most likely from a remote area of Pakistan, showed a mob brutally beating two men. It was shared widely to spread anger against a community. The state government had to intervene and clear the air around the falsely attributed video, but the venom had been spread by then.
  • Jharkhand 2017 Last year, another WhatsApp scare around ‘child-kidnapping’ in Jharkhand resulted in the lynching of seven people.

***

It came out of nowhere—no sour­ces cited, no eyewitness accounts, yet it spread all over the internet and suddenly, it was social media breaking news: a tribal man had been killed following an argument with a bus conductor, who belonged to another community. In no time, a usually laidback Shillong was in the grip of both fear and rage, courtesy, innumerable WhatsApp forwards, Facebook shares and retweets.

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