Don’t fall prey to fake Whatsapp forwards

A mind numbing incident took place in Assam on Friday,15 June. A Mumbai based sound engineer Nilotpal Das and his businessman friend Abhijeet Nath, a digital artist; both residents of Guwahati were beaten to death by a mob in Karbi Anglong district.

For the past few days, a Facebook post was being circulated that some childlifters had come to Assam. Nilotpal and his friend were on their way to a popular waterfall in Kangthilangso when they were stopped by approximately 250 locals in Panjari Kachari village at around 8pm on Friday, mistaken as childlifters, the villagers attacked their car before pulling them out and beating to death.

This isn’t a one off case. Four people lost their lives in 2016 following similar rumours in the lower Assam districts of Chirang, Darrang, Baksa, Sonitpur. In May this year, a 55 year old woman was beaten to death in Tamil Nadu. The killing took place amid rumours and false WhatsApp messages over kidnapping of children in the state.

Another video has gone viral leading to panic among the citizens, even some regional media channels have picked up the rumour. Two men are shown on a motorcycle who grab a child and ride off. But the video is not real. It’s not even from India. An unedited version of the video shows it is a child safety film from Pakistan, designed to create awareness. The last segment of the video, which shows one of the men holding up a sign that explains the incident, has been edited out in the version being spread on WhatsApp.

Many violent incidents with disastrous consequences have taken place and are still continuing due to illiteracy of the people and the unwillingness to confirm the source of the news generation.  More than half a billion people in the country use smart phones and the scourge of fake news is spreading like a web.

The Internet isn’t new at spreading fake news. Its always been doing so. UNESCO declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as the best National Anthem in the world. No, it didn’t. It was fake and people were fooled. ‘UNESCO again declared ‘Narendra Modi’ as the best Prime Minister in the world. No, he isn’t and Indians fell again. Every year we see a fake photo of our country during Diwali, bright and shining, claimed to be sent by NASA and each time people forward it. Even our Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a ‘so-called NASA’ image of India being 100% electrified which their own party members called a bluff.

The Whatsapp forwards have even entered our day to day life. There are ‘n’ number of reasons they mention through which we can get Cancer and the ways in which it could be cured too, some-how ‘cow urine’ and ‘cow touch’ these days have become pious. The general folk fall for these foolish forwards and they send it forward ‘as it is’.

Amidst the insane ‘fake news’ generated daily, there are some saviours. AltNews, SM Hoax Slayer, Check4spam, BOOM FactCheck are those trying to fight the fake news in India.

The need of the hour for the people is to check the source of the news and then pass it forward or else there would be many Nilotpal’s killed for no reason.