Self Expression Magazine

Fake News: Too Close To Home.

Posted on the 25 March 2019 by Scribe Project @ascribeproject

The term ‘Fake News’ was initially coined (or was turned into a mainstream word somewhat like ‘yeet’) by Donald Trump; in the context where he was just a presidential candidate who to be fair got quite some bashing by established media giants such as CNN. The reason he used this phrase is because of the unfavourable ratings these organizations were reporting on or when discussing the magnitude of ones’ crowd in a pre-election rally (hard to believe this ‘political discussion’ actually happened). However the phrase ‘Fake News’ has unfortunately achieved new depth and is an actual problem the government will have to deal with head-on if we are to ensure ever-lasting peace on our little island.

This writing comes in a time of a lot of misinformation being circulated around the internet regarding the CEB and its electricity cuts but this muddle became a major issue in the not so distant past of the Teldeniya anti-muslim assaults where a group of extremists decided to act upon bogus information. The problem would’ve escalated had the government not taken the only action it could’ve at the moment which was just to simply shut off all forms of Social Networks and restrict communication utility tools such as WhatsApp which to be fair to the government did prevent people from communicating with each other to the extent where the mobs were unable to coordinate inherently deflating the issue.

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The root cause of this phenomena is of two sides; the lack of government legislature to tackle with complex issues regarding the cyberspace and the people who are gullible enough to believe the news of  certain dodgy pages on Facebook and not fact checking afterwards. The former of course is a matter of censorship and the clash of the value of speech and its extents the government will tolerate.

The latter is what people believe and what they consider to be valuable and honest reporting. Full disclosure; I don’t actually use FaceBook as much as other platforms because of the amount of absolute trash that my peers have decided to share. (The memes aren’t funny and why do all the ‘Meme Pages’ have the same icon with the same troll face with slight variations?!) But when I do bite the bullet and decide to log onto this platform, the amount of bogus stories and borderline conspiracy theories I encounter is of a scale that a human should never witness. Better; the comments posted on those pictures make me lose faith in the political system of the country (didn’t have a lot in the beginning to be honest) because if these individuals are the decision makers of our country then as my friend Avantha would put it “Budu Saranai!”.

It’s also the same when I make small talk with an Uber driver or someone from the Boomers Era (30+ year olds).

Perhaps the main cause of this is that a majority of people in Sri Lanka have lost faith in their political leaders.

A Right-to-Information Act which was proposed in the past year or so seemed to do the trick but even after a certain group took the “Petrol Equation” to court under this act for being vague and demanding the actual variables used in the calculations it just turned into a game of hot potato between the departments all denying knowledge of the exacts of it until a Minister revealed it about a Month later. This type of an attitude towards information from the top-down surely has had its toll on the people to the extent where one wouldn’t care about the integrity of the information.

Unless there is a  drastic change in the standards of people in gathering information, the best we can hope for is the government cracking down on these fake news outlets and taking a firm stance against this sort of misinformation being spread as like the writer Gore Vidal put itThe people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed’.

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