Though it is difficult to quantify the impact of fake news on public opinion in India, it is clear that it has the potential to shape the way people think and act.
With the proliferation of social media and the ease of disseminating information online, fake news has become a significant concern. It is a well-known fact that fake news has the potential to shape public opinion and influence the decisions and beliefs of individuals. China has long sought to sway the media and information landscapes of other nations and has employed a wide range of strategies to do so. However, there was little evidence for many years that players with ties to China were running strong misinformation campaigns on international social media platforms. This picture has changed as of 2019. Pro-Beijing forces are undoubtedly engaging in a wide range of manipulative operations on international social media platforms, as shown by several investigations and massive takedowns of fake accounts.
In India as well, there have been concerns about China’s involvement in spreading fake news as a means to shape public opinion and influence public discourse. Online manipulation refers to the use of tactics and techniques to manipulate or deceive people using the internet or digital media. Some common methods of online manipulation include creating fake accounts or websites, using bots to amplify certain messages or create the appearance of popular support, and using social media algorithms to target specific groups with tailored content.
SOME EXAMPLES OF CHINA’S INVOLVEMENT IN SPREADING FAKE NEWS IN INDIA ARE AS UNDER:
A. One example of this is the spread of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic in India. There have been reports of fake news being circulated on social media platforms, including WhatsApp, claiming that the Indian government is hiding the true extent of the pandemic and downplaying the number of cases and deaths. Some of this fake news has been traced back to sources in China, and it is believed that it is being spread as part of a disinformation campaign.
B. Another example of fake news being used to shape public opinion in India is in the area of international relations. There have been instances of fake news being spread about India’s relations with other countries, including China. For example, India is seeking to undermine China’s interests in the region. It is believed that this fake news is being spread by individuals or groups in China as a means to create tension between the two countries and undermine India’s standing in the international community.
C. There are also reports of fake news being spread about the domestic politics of India, with the aim of influencing public opinion and sowing discord within the country. This can include false reports about political parties or leaders, or misleading claims about the state of the economy or other domestic issues. It is believed that some of this fake news is being spread by individuals or groups in China as a means to interfere in the internal affairs of India and create instability.
In addition to using social media, China has also been accused of using traditional media outlets to shape public opinion in India. This can include paying for favourable coverage in Indian media outlets, as well as using state-owned media to promote a pro-China narrative. China has also been accused of using propaganda and influence campaigns to sway public opinion in India, particularly on issues related to the border dispute between the two countries.
WAYS IN WHICH CHINA MAY BE SPREADING FAKE NEWS IN INDIA:
A. One possibility is that it is being done through official channels, with the Chinese government using its state-controlled media outlets to disseminate false information.
B. Another possibility is that it is being done through unofficial channels, with individuals or groups in China using social media and other online platforms to spread fake news.
C. It is also possible that China is using a combination of both official and unofficial channels to spread fake news in India.
One of the major factors that has contributed to China’s ability to shape public opinion in India through fake news is the rise of “echo chambers” on social media. Echo chambers are groups or communities on social media where people with similar beliefs or viewpoints gather to discuss and share information. These echo chambers can create a false sense of consensus and reinforce the beliefs of the people within them, making it harder for alternative viewpoints to gain traction.
It is important for the government and civil society to take a number of steps such as (a) strengthening laws and regulations to prevent the spread of false information, (b) increasing awareness about the dangers of fake news among the public. (c) It is also important for media outlets and social media platforms to be more vigilant in identifying and debunking fake news, and for individuals to be more critical of the information they consume online.
Though it is difficult to quantify the impact of fake news on public opinion in India, it is clear that it has the potential to shape the way people think and act, it can create confusion and uncertainty, and it can be used to manipulate public opinion and influence public discourse. This act of China in shaping public opinion in India through the spread of fake news, including misinformation about international relations, domestic politics among others also needs immediate action similar to what we witnessed in the last few years—a new India is being shaped under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where India took strong stand by banning around 250 Chinese apps which were found to be prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state and public order.
Khushbu Jain is a practicing advocate in the Supreme Court and founding partner of the law firm, Ark Legal. She can be contacted on Twitter: @advocatekhushbu.