Can fake news affect the voting patterns in India? That is the question at hand to be answered. And the obvious answer is the affirmative. It most definitely does affect the voting patterns in India. It has the ability to easily change many people’s minds. If this news is spread through a social media, especially something such as WhatsApp, the news will spread critically and rapidly. Using WhatsApp, one can send a message to 256 people in one go.
You can also forward a message 5 times. That means that in just 10 seconds, the news can reach 1280 phones, who will further spread the message in geometric progressions. It only takes a few seconds to spread, and it will definitely spread especially if it is interesting.
But how does it affect the voting patterns of India, or any other nation for that matter? And more importantly, why does this happen? And probably the most importantly, we need to know how we should prevent this from happening! Again, the answer to these questions seems very evident.
But we also need to figure out how many people are exposed to this fake news. Once we have those statistics in place, we must further comprehend and calculate how many of these people have changed their opinions based of it. Let us discuss the matter further, in detail.
How does fake news affect the voting patterns in India?
How does one select the perfect candidate to vote for? Simple. You consider the promises the person has made, you think about the accomplishments of the past, you evaluate the stories the person has told you and then you create a conscious decisions. The verbs in the previous sentence are ‘consider’, ‘think’, ‘evaluate’ and ‘create’.
All these actions are things that are done in the cerebrum that is the seat of wisdom, lying in the brain. And this brain controls almost all of our thought processes. It controls our understanding, our knowledge, our wisdom, and our opinions. And the problem with the brain is that it is a very fickle thing. It is influenced very easily by various things and factors. And the news is one of the main contributors to influencing the brain.
Obviously, when we read the news, be it on newspapers or on social media, we can never really know how much of it is genuine and how much of it is just fabricated. In fact, most of the news today is fabricated. If you read newspapers often, you will see that about seventy five percent of papers are only covered with advertisements.
There is only one newspaper that has zero advertisements and actually covers up the real current affairs and news items. That is “The Hindu”. Other than that, newspapers cannot be trusted. Leave alone newspaper, another channel of this fake news is the various social media we use often.
In fact, there is rampant wrong information being circulated everywhere, especially on WhatsApp, and Facebook. And these are media that are often overused by us Indians. There are currently more than 200 million Indian users of WhatsApp.
There are people among us who will listen and heed the WhatsApp messages stating that “fake Amul Butter” or “HIV being present in certain juices”.
Who has typed out these messages? Where have they originated from? What is the proof that these messages are true? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. There is absolutely not an iota of truth in these messages, yet you will see masses of people following it blindly.
When such things are followed so devotedly, what makes you think that such articles of news about the political parties of India shall not influence the minds of the Indians? Just recently I received a message stating that our respected Prime Minister spends more than eighty lakh rupees on paying beauticians for every national appearance he makes. If I were to believe this, like some people definitely have, I would not have wanted to vote for him.
In a country wide as wide a religious diversity as India, there are bound to be some riots and fights between the various communities and sects. And this also provides a very easy method of spreading fake news. Parties slyly spread information about how their opponents are mistreating a certain religion or sect. And most of the people believe this news, and are turned against the party, that might most probably only have their good intentions at heart. This is just one example of how fake news affects the voting patterns in India.
Examples of past history when fake news affected the voting patterns
There has been a recent study according to which certain political leaders have hired public relations officials or maybe even consulting firms to spread fake propaganda and increase their own popularity. For example, there was this one apparent garbage cleaning drive conducted by a certain political party. There were news articles and pictures all over the face of the Internet, and the party in question earned a lot of respect and praise.
It was many days after that incident that another video was circulated, and it did not even reach very far. The video showed the leaders of the party first removing a little garbage from a truck and then simply lifting it back up to click a picture and load it into the truck. Basically they were tricking us all, and not benefiting anybody. However, due to media intervention, this video did not spread too far or wide. There are still a whole many people who believe in the greatness of that party for multiple incidents like this.
Even the films and advertisements we watch influence us consciously as well as unconsciously. That is why the movies that were supposed to come out before the elections, one based on the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and another based on the Congress’ rule of India, were prohibited from releasing before the election date. This was an excellent decision. The film industry tends to add a little spice to the true story, and there is no doubt that everyone would have been influenced by both movies, although we don’t know which one would impact us more.
In addition to this, there is a very good example in the 2016 presidential elections of the United States of America. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Facebook, none other than Mark Zuckerberg himself, had given us a statement according to which more than 126 million Americans were shown politically oriented, Russian backed fake news stories through Facebook.
The twenty of the most popular fake stories that were widely publicised had received more shares, likes, reactions and comments than what was received by the top twenty real news stories. There were almost eight point seven million (8.7 million) engagements regarding the fake news stories, in comparison to the seven point three million (7.3 million) engagements regarding the true news stories.
The election in question was a very close call, and it was quite obvious, although without proper tangible evidence, that the fake news ultimately decided who would win and who would lose that election. Without that news, it is very possible that the entire outcome of the election would have been different.
In conclusion, fake news can most definitely affect the voting pattern, especially in a country like India. This is one of the reasons we really need to verify the news we read before blindly believing. The news influences our beliefs and can confuse us if we take it for the truth without confirming.
Deciding who will have the supreme power of governing our country is a very, very important thing. We are a democratic nation, and that decision lies with us. We have the power to elect our leaders, and we cannot make that decision in a haste. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to verify each and every fact before we take it for granted and make any decisions based on it.
Take just one minute out of your busy schedule to verify the forwards you receive online, before you forward it to anyone else, lest you are guilty of gossiping and spreading false rumours, and indirectly influencing the choice of a nation in the wrong manner. Let us no longer let fake news affect our voting patterns.