Actors Prakash Raj and Khushboo, and news and media professionals and political experts took part at the ‘Beyond Fake News’ event organised by The BBC Tamil News service in Chennai today. The event looked at the sources of fake and misleading news, the impact of social media on news, solutions to handle it, and more.
“It is because of those working in politics, administration and media – literate people becoming accomplices in the situation that it has reached such a grave situation,” Prakash Raj said, addressing the media.
He said that there was nothing new about fake news and that it has always existed. Talking about our inclination to believe in things, he said, “Humans have always bought sugar-coated lies about their preferred topics. But what’s happening in today’s world is this vulnerability is being capitalised on, even the minute weaknesses of people are being manipulated by an organized group that sits down and carefully manufactures opinions.”
He condemned the BJP and right-wing groups for their policies – of which the manufacture and spread of fake news has been a major part. “They know that this will sell in our land and hence have dedicated wings to carry out these tasks. They know how to channel our loves and likes, shepherd an opinion towards a religion or issue that we have no knowledge about for their own purposes. What we’ve been witnessing for the past four and a half years is the impact of this move,” he said. He added that there were palpable tension and unrest in the society born out of these policies.
He also lamented about the sorry state of today’s society. “People resort to lynching at the drop of a hat. Lynchings are happening based on mere rumours. We’ve begun to hate others without reasons. This has increased in the past five years.”
“I can see the danger cropping in, I can see the unrest that’s the result of these agendas,” Prakash Raj said and said one way to combat this is to understand how different groups of people use our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities to their benefit. The actor added that he feared for the people and the society which he believes would be the eventual victims of fake news. “Things will come to stage where we’ll even forget the concept of humanity. We’ll turn into a society of hatred and violence,” he added.
Prakash Raj also criticized the media for adopting favouritism, and said the only remedy for the problem was to create awareness among people.
He said that the media, and every citizen, has a responsibility to understand the consequences of each and every item of fake or malicious news and take appropriate action. He said that people are vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda. “If a forest is on fire, it is not just because there was a spark, but also because the trees were in a state to catch fire,” he said and said the responsibility lies is us to be vigilant too.
Later, speaking as part of a panel to find solutions to fake news, Khusbhu Sundar, actor producer, and spokesperson for the Congress, said that long before fake news was called as such, film industry professionals – mainly actresses, faced the brunt of rumour and gossip often designed to spread malicious information. She said she had faced all of it in her career, and said every individual needs to self-reflect before responding or reacting to fake information on social media. She also called out the BJP’s National Secretary – H Raja, for his tweet “revealing” Vijay’s name during the Mersal controversy, and other BJP cadres who attempted to shame her for her birth name of Nakhat Khan.