Experts believe that the best defense against the rumor mill is caution
False information shared in various social networks always leads to confusion andpointless arguments.Baselessrumorsinevitably turn an already bad situation to its worst.
Experts believe that the best defense against the rumor mill is caution. The netizens must remain extremely cautious before sharing any unverified information, images or videos.
Any and all information must be cross-checked from multiple sources.
Culture of false rumors
The rumor culture is nothing new in Bangladesh. On August 4, a person approached students engaged in a movement for safe roads in Dhaka’s Jigatola area, and told them four students have been killed, one student’s eyes were ripped off and four female students were being raped inside the Awami League president’s political office in Dhanmondi.
This unverified information immediately agitated hundreds of protesting students gathering at the spot. As the demonstrators marched towards the Dhanmondi Awami League office, they had to face police resistance.
Students pelted stones at the Chhatra League office, which led to clash with the party leaders and activists.
Meanwhile, actress KaziNaushaba Ahmed shared a video full of unverified information on Facebook, without feeling the need to check the information for authenticity. The video quickly went viral both in the country and in abroad.
Later that day, a team of protesting students searched the Awami League office andconfirmed at a press conference that no evidence of any murder and rape have been found at the premises.
On March 3, 2013, a certain quarter spread rumorssaying the face of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi- a notorious war criminal has been seen on the surface of the moon. Culprits cooked up the rumor to disrupt the ongoing trial of war criminals.
The rumor resulted in fierce clashes across the country in Satkania and Gaibandha, and caused the deaths of 26 people. Hundreds were also injured in the incident.
On May 5 of the same year, non-political organization Hefazat-e-Islam began a string of demonstrations centering various religious issues in ShaplaChattar of Dhaka. Police removed them from the area that night.
Rumorswere spread that thousands of Hefazat-e-Islam members were killed during the drive. However, the organization could not provide supporting evidence to back that claim.
On the same issue, humanitarian organization Odhikar claimed that 61 people had been killed during police operation in ShaplaChattar. OdhikarSecretary Adilur Rahman Khan was later arrested in a case, after the organization failed to provide any proof of the alleged death toll.
Identifying misleading information
Opportunistic quarters, which existin both home and abroad,have a habit of exploiting anycritical situation by spreading false information, with aims to sow unrest in a society.
Everyone should know the basics of correctly identifying authentic and false information.
Most reputed search engines, such as Google, have a built-inmechanism for vetting sources of images, news and information being circulated online. Specialized software can also be used for verifying information.
There are also some non-government organizations operating across the globe to cross check sources of information.
Speaking on the issue, CEO ArifNizami of ICT research organization Preneur Lab described several ways to differentiate between authentic and false information that is circulated in the social media.
“A person must remain cautious before sharing any image, video or information in any social media platforms. There are ways to figure out if any information is correct or false,” he said.
Arif continued: “We should only believe information from trusted sources. A trusted source can be a credible news portal or a close friend.
“We must investigate the source of any information found from social media, was it first-hand information? Or did the source learned from someone else?”
Sharing info on social media
During a time of crisis, or an ongoing movement, a person must verify any information from multiple sources before sharing it on social media. If there is a risk that any particular information could deteriorate a developing situation, it is best not to share it at all.
If any verified information is crucial enough that it must be shared, a person must wait for an hour or two before sharing it.
“If we wait for some time before sharing any information on social media, the authenticity of that information might become a bit clearer,” said ArifNizami.
Another good way to find source of a shared image is to use the reverse image search function of Google search engine. It is the quickest way to track down the authenticity and publication dates of shared images.
A person must also pay heed to trusted news portals, online media and television channels, before sharing any sensitive information.
The mass communication and journalism department of Bangladesh University of Liberal Arts (ULAB), a non-government university took an initiative called the “Fact Watch” last year. Its website was launched on June 5 this year.
“The Fact Watch team works on verifying information circulating the internet and published by the mainstream media. We use research, Google search engine and various software to verify information,” said Professor Sumon Rahman of ULAB.
Any person can seek support from the Fact Watch team for verifying any information free of cost.