Friday, November 08, 2013

Breaking 'news' on Social media

This article caught my eye because a friend tweeted it about this yesterday.

Last year, when I was going through a social media issue, two people with active Facebook accounts also joined in with wild accusations. One was a cartoonist and another, a guy who called himself an 'investigative journalist', Anbalagan Veerappan. At that time, his profile claimed that he had worked with Sify. It also claimed that he was a real estate agent.

Amongst a lot of things, this guy said he taps into people's phones because it is investigative journalism. Now he has the wherewithal or the authority to tap into phones, (he also said he was tapping my phone and my mom's), is a big question. I, of course, did mention this later to the authorities and we had given screenshots of these threats, to back our complaint. Friends also joined in, some of whom had also worked with Sify, to report his Facebook Page and it was deactivated.

Now it is interesting that this guy's FB post of SB being bought over got noticed by a Bangalore based techie, Suseendran, as reported here by ET and journalists and finally led to an IT department raid.

I am not really a person for conspiracy theories, but if a man like Anbalagan claims to tap people's phones and spread wild rumors which actually do have an repercussion, I am wondering if there are a group of people who randomly write random stories like this.

I am wondering where this leaves us and our personal responsibility before tweeting a news story. Are we now in an age where people crave to be famous/important for a few seconds by breaking news? Even if it is false? It seems like it.

Even in my case, last year, it was a bizarre rumor one guy tweeted, to attract attention, which a cartoonist working with a 'respectable' publication shared without verifying. Clearly, as some informed people watching social media behavior say, it is the age of the "creepy Indian male social media celebrity". I am quoting an informed friend  "Freedom of expression in an immature society makes for a disruptive combination"

I cannot begin to wonder at all the people who said it was 'wrong' to go the authorities.

I am quite sure, this post is like a literal bait for the same trolls all over again. IMO there is more to these tweeters and social media "rowdies" (as they want to proudly call themselves) than meets the eye. Eventually time will tell.

Another way of looking at this could be that there are some people who seem to like the influence, perhaps, or the power, (of sorts) that the few hours of attention that their blogs/FB Pages/Tweets get and take things too far. A case in point is also people who rush to tweet that a celebrity has passed away, when they are still in hospital. I know of several celebrities who have been given RIP messages on twitter when they had completely recovered and were on their way back home.

Sooner or later there will be laws that will be introduced, modified to suit new menaces such as these.

Bottom line - do not trust a social media post blindly. Always verify, double-check. Especially when it involves people, their families and their livelihoods.

1 comment:

Krishnan NS said...

From my personal opinion, few do this spreading of negative news for:
1. Cheap thrill
2. Want to be the first to break news (without verifying the source/correctness) -self-publicity
3. Easy access to media to spread news
4. Vengeance against the person -celebrity bashing

And the current trend is,
1. Sell anything that sells
2. No publicity is bad publicity
3. Rumors sell faster than real news
4. The bigger the celebrity and more negative the rumors, they sell that much faster.

And as in case of SB, media looks at FB & Twitter for news and any update from celebrities are converted into news and put as news in next day's papers. Many a times, the connotation in which the celebrity messaged/updated is not bothered.

The combination of negative mindset persons & media reporting without verifying is creating problems and many celebrities are getting off social media at times due to this. To quote 2 recent cases: 1) SRK quit Twitter in this Jan '13 due to this and came back after a full 5-6 months. 2) Manna Dey was declared many a times before actually passed away.

Freedom of expression should be used for constructive purposes and not to malign others, as is the case now.