Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Social Media and False Propaganda – Threat to Democracy?

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It has become a fashion these days among educated middle class Indians – sitting in the comfort of their house watching a pirated movie or sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned office listening to a song downloaded illegally – to tweet or re-tweet or share any news or stories that portray politicians and administrators of India in bad light. These people never care to ascertain the facts before re-tweeting or sharing news in social media. For them all politicians and administrators are corrupt and any news that is critical of politicians and ruling class is news to be spread.
Here are two “stories” that went viral during the last few days – people tweeted, re-tweeted, shared on their walls, sent as email forwards that actually has no truth in it. Why can’t the so called educated people using the social media take few seconds to cross check the facts before posting? For them anything against the system is a true story and it is their duty as a true Indian to spread it. I always felt, have they ever shown half of this enthusiasm during the election time and exercised their franchise! Maybe they are waiting for the time when they can tweet their votes during Indian election sitting in their house and make their “ideal” candidate win.
Here is the first of these stories – if you use Facebook you may have either posted it on your wall or have seen one of your friends post on theirs.
In 1982, In Singapore, LOKPAL BILL was implemented and 142 Corrupt Ministers & Officers were arrested in one single day.Today Singapore has only 1% poor people & no taxes are paid by the people to the government, 92% Literacy Rate, Better Medical Facilities, Cheaper Prices, 90% Money is white & Only 1% Unemployment exists..Re Post this if you want to live in a corruption free country!! I DO!!
What is the truth? Here it is…
The agency responsible for combating corruption in Singapore is called the CPIB, or the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. It was formed in 1952 and not 1982, as the message claims. It does not consist of a small body of people with "high moral standards". It has regular policemen and some civilians in its ranks. In this regard, it is nothing like India's proposed Lokpal. It is a large organization, drawn from service police officers, just like our CBI! It reports to the Singaporean Prime Minister, unlike India's proposed Lokpal.Most importantly, the body can only recommend the people found in corruption to be guilty to the courts, unlike India's Lokpal, which can initiate prosecution and impose penalties. There is no source on the internet about the arrest of 142 govt. officials in one day - this is completely false. Also, Singapore's prosperity has been grossly overstated: Singapore does not have 0 taxes - the highest tax bracket is as high as 20%.  Singapore does not have cheap prices by any stretch of the imagination - it is, as of 2011, the 10th most expensive city in the world!
Now here is the second story. Most of you may have seen this picture going around. It is supposed to be the revelation by Wikileaks about the Indian black money holders in Swiss bank.

The above story became viral in no time. But today Wikileaks have come out with the following statement on their Facebook Page.
WARNING: WikiLeaks and Indian black money accounts: The following report is FAKE and was NEVER released by WikiLeaks.

I would say someone sitting in some part of the world with good imagination using Photoshop to the best use, and there are hundreds of people ready to get fooled by this prank. 
I have a piece of advice to these so called educated middle class people – not all politicians and administrators are corrupt. There are rotten apples among politicians and administrators like there are rotten apples among engineers, doctors, sports persons or name any field. You may see 10 doctors who are corrupt and will you brand all doctors as corrupt? Have you ever thought of the consequence of spreading such a lie? So my advice to those who do social media activism is
Please don’t spread lies. You do more harm than good. Visit the polling booth once in every five years and try to bring the changes you want to see in a democratic way. Jai Hind.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Balu Krishnan said...

This is a blog I want to share. I have been responding to many who were spreading these false news and telling them it is not true and we should not become a victim of someones false propaganda. One of the response I received when I stated that the Wikileaks news is false "I am pretty sure that most of these guys are robbers, so even though it is false, I am not removing them". The same thing with Singapore bill, no one have the patience to verify it. If they cant verify such a simple thing, I doubt their support to Lokpal bill. I am of the opinion that they are just following the crowd and the credibility of the movement is questionable. It is not just these things, there is another viral video where Einstein Challenges an Atheist professor, which is also absolutely false (Einstein believed in Spinoza's God), and it was a manifestation of church to spread religion in schools. There are many viral video/comments of this sort, which will not satisfy common logic but just people just spread them. Another form of slavery.

September 07, 2011 7:58 PM  
Anonymous sarath. said...

excellent one Brijesh. I would say your best so far! :D

September 08, 2011 3:33 AM  
Blogger MayilVahanan said...

Nair, You are highlighting just one aspect of Social Media. Even If I wanted to verify, who has time to verify each and every one of it. Neither do you. It is not possible. If you interested in reading some one's views, if not you always have the option of turning away from that.

If I retweet something, it does not necessarily mean that I endorse the same. Even your mentor Shashi Tharoor said as much. Social media is filing the gaps where MSM- Main stream media is refusing to go. Do you think Barkha-gate would have come to attention with out social media? Egypt issue would not become this big without twitter.

September 08, 2011 5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scumbag blogger, saying social media and false propaganda are threat to democracy, posts facebook and twitter links all over blog to promote it.

September 08, 2011 5:21 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Mayil,
I know the good side of social media but I was mentioning about the bad side of it.

Anon @ 5:21 AM
Read it one more time - I am concerned about Social Media spreading false propaganda; I am not against any social media

September 08, 2011 5:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I have not checked the Singapore story, The list of "black money holders" is a rehash of a list published by Tehelka in Feb 2011 with some more names included. So, there could be a grain of truth in it. But of course it is not from WikiLeaks.

September 08, 2011 5:43 AM  
Blogger bjey said...

This post is really good one. The propaganda is initiated by some one else from behind the scene but people do spread it because,

1.Social media works in a anarchic environment.
2. Tweet, retweet, share, like, comment are just becoming robotic for people using this media. Cross-checking the fact is for bloggers or MSM.
3. Most of the time they do it for fun like bullying.
4. They think they are part of the big revolution and anything that will shame the politicians and ruling class will be beneficial for country. Even a false data. That's why a mention of Rahul Gandhi will invite hundreds of hate comments.
5. People are fed up with corruption and political rhetoric. Common Logic have failed them many times.

Educated, young people are not propagandist but wanted to have an anti-virus for the system.

September 08, 2011 5:46 AM  
OpenID ghostkadost said...

You lost me when you started your post with mentions of pirated movie and pirated songs. If you are saying that supporting Lokpal while playing pirated songs and movies is hypocrisy then I can find hundred of other reasons for branding each word/deeds uttered by our `esteemed` politicians as hypocrisy. I landed up at your blog through a link tweeted by Shashi Tharoor. Does he not indulge in selective tweeting? Is that not hypocrisy.

I understand that false propaganda is a threat. You could do better by writing on it without resorting to mud slinging in the first paragraph itself.

September 08, 2011 6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No.. Sir, Like everything social media too has its dark side...but tell me every bit of new appearing on your favorite manorama is genuine...yes social media stood behind anna and tht caused little bit of embarrassment to your party which they deserved..n one more thing ure mentor shashi tharoor brought max popularity to twitter in india...u cant oppose and support anything at your own convenience...

September 08, 2011 6:10 AM  
Anonymous Saket Khanna said...

I fail to understand ...some ppl like the one who wrote this blog start with critisising a certain class of ppl by genralising all of thm as one ....cos "that class" genralised all polotician as one.... so what different r u (blogger) doing here... for record in my 336 FB frns hardly 3-6 would ve mentioned those 2 stories...by any chance do you have some data to support ur thoughts else you too belong to the same group whom u targeted here. I think critising is the easiest thing these days u just need to pick up a target n start shooting

September 08, 2011 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brijesh, you make a good point - thanks for pointing out that these couple of tweets are fabrications of an imaginative mind. IMHO, you could have done that without the rant on "educated middle-class Indians". It is common to highlight events that align to ones particular world-view. The original re-tweeters (?!) were doing just that - they already were convinced that politicians are rotten and when the tweets showed up, they thoughtlessly re-tweeted them because the information therein aligned with their bias. By going on this rant on "educated middle class Indians" who watch pirated movies and listen to illegally downloaded songs, you are doing the same - jumping at an event and fitting it around your prior convictions.

September 08, 2011 8:01 AM  
Blogger Manoj said...

False propaganda's happen in every type of media. For instance, think about Manish Tiwary's attack on Anna (and later his apologies). Wrong people always misuse ANY media and there is nothing special about social media in this aspect

September 08, 2011 10:16 AM  
Blogger Sina said...

The facts mentioned by the bloggerare right. However his tone in the first paragraph is not good.

He says it has become fashion of middle class Indians to watch TV channels who badmouth about politicians and watch pirated movies.

What can a helpless middle class would do. It would watch what is served to the. The fact is all channels somehow belong to some politicians. Each channel do the badmouthing about their opponents.

Some neutral channels do it for higher TRP.

About piracy...
Why do entertainment has to be that costly. All moviemakers & their partners harge very high for theit hit DVDDs making impossible to buy it. The actors earn crores (not paying due taxes).

When a movie is not in demand they can very well sell the DVs for Rs. 45/-

Is their a regulatory body to fix their price.

So the helpless middle class fellow adopts the easy route. (Not that I am supporting it).

You make entertainment affordable, cut down vulgar expenditure in movimaking and bring down the prices. the middle class indian would buy a genuine copy. At least I do it.

September 09, 2011 5:18 AM  
Blogger Nitin Jain said...

well All medium of expression needs some time to evolve, develop and mature and slowly develop self regulating mechanisms. As they say, there's no point in blaming the messanger. A bit exxagerated example and with all due respect, I dont think millions of people who participated in 1942 Quit India movement knew the real purpose or benefits of democracy!! So a large no. of people always follow, take decisions based on what their heart feels right and most of the time they are right as well

September 12, 2011 7:32 PM  

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