Fake News

Geoffery Garrett in his book, “Leading in our uncertain times: Be real – not a hero” talks about the three defining characteristics of this era of unprecedented uncertainty – everything is unpredictable, everything is faster and everything is questionable. 

It is the grey zones and the black boxes that these three traits create – that fake news takes shape in. Fake news, deep fakes, and the undermining of truth and facts are disturbing and profound realities. It is critical that as business leaders who are now being relied upon to be a source of strength for their employees, set an example for their organisation as well as be a credible source of information – we are doubly conscious of this silent scourge

In the spirit of Geoffrey Garett’s message – question everything, especially if it is:

  • Overtly emotive with facts that fit it a bit too conveniently. Anti-China and Anti-Muslim rhetoric suffers from this bias often these days. But that’s not the only thing. It is embarrassing that we would fall prey to “our culture / religion is the greatest” style messaging – but downright ridiculous that natural cures, folksy prevention tips and traditional treatments for Covid-19 can find purchase. 
  • Manipulative and propaganda driven agenda. As any activist would attest to, it is about the cause. Sometimes these causes may not lend themselves to emotive outbursts – sometimes it is just about having a motivation along with cyber literacy and message nous to get going. Dig deeper
  • Asking you to participate. This involves you being prompted to forward the message further; all the way to taking you to a link (usually a dodgy url with a curious double-level domain like zeeneews.com.co or some such) to fill in your details, seeking support for a cause
  • Content free, without any source attribution or citation. Most of the best news channels and commentators always admit to where they have got their stats and insights from. Established news sites, international consultancies, government sources and credible corporates understand the importance of link-backs and the need for consistency and credibility
  • Just not sitting well with you. Trusting your own gut about a piece of news is often the start of fake news discovery. But there is a lot of help available as well – in the form of great fact-checking websites like FactCheck.orgInternational Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)PolitiFact.com, or ALT News here in India. Do your own detective work and feel more confident in being able to identify fact vs. fiction

This piece was prompted by an exceptional “lock-down video” created by TikTok, which gets Virat Kohli, Kriti Sanon, Sara Ali Khan and Ayushmann Khurrana to come together and people to “Mat Kar Forward”, as a means of discouraging people from forwarding messages which can lead to hate crimes and misinformation. It is a tremendous effort, simple and hard-hitting, with hooks, smarts and a purpose (unlike an earlier attempt where a superstar loses his glasses and has his colleagues looking around the house for it). But that is a matter for another day. 

Mat Kar Forward!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Amit Narayan
Partner & Managing Director, South Asia at Control Risks
Amit manages consultants who design, develop and implement risk-mitigation strategies for companies across South Asia. He has advised clients on political and regulatory risk, pre-investment risk, reputational DD, forensic investigations, public policy and stakeholder mapping. Amit has worked in Edelman in India and Burson-Marsteller in Singapore. He has also worked in-house at Vodafone in Singapore and The Walt Disney Company in Hong Kong.

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