Misinformation is pervasive and touches all sectors of society
The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) on Tuesday organized a workshop on recognizing fake news in Dhaka.
The interactive workshop, titled "Developing a Critical Understanding Against Fake News & Disinformation," was attended by young professionals, students, and youth representatives from various disciplines.
The primary goal of the workshop was to educate the public on how to discern fake news from authentic, as deceptive news and misleading information pose a significant obstacle to the progress of any nation.
Society has evolved at a rapid pace in the last decade but so have the methods of producing fake news. The propaganda produced by the media has led to the doubting of many key facts, even the legitimacy of the Covid-19 vaccine, speakers at the workshop said.
In his opening remarks, BIPSS Research Fellow Shafqat Munir said: “The most prioritized target audience for misinformation is the youth. They are a vulnerable population and it is important for us to make sure they can distinguish between what is authentic and what is fake.”
He added that the impact of misinformation is absolutely pervasive and touches all sectors of society, resulting in serious security implications and social destabilization.
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The workshop was organized into three sessions, where the opening presentation was delivered by the Cultural Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Dhaka Sharlina Hussain-Morgan, followed by the members of the BIPSS Research Team Subham Barua and Tasnuva Alam Ahona. Consulting Editor of Prothom Alo (English) Ayesha Kabir presented the final session.
Sharlina Hussain-Morgan began by explaining differences between disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, pointing out that most people were not aware of them until recently.
Bringing an American perspective to the discussion, Sharlina also addressed how some media outlets deliberately create chaos and panic with fake news.
When asked what to do when institutions fail to provide authentic information, Sharlina emphasized that the youth should not feel powerless when it comes to tackling these challenges. As the nation’s future leaders, they should take the firm initiative to fix the problem.
Following Sharlina Hussain-Morgan, Barua and Ahona began their presentation by recalling a famous quote by Al Gore: “Fake news has been around as long as news has been around.”
They pointed out that during the pandemic, the credibility of news information is even more important.
“Social media has the largest density of fake news and this is quite concerning. Fake news consumption is very high since the number of users of these apps are tremendous,” they noted.
Ayesha Kabir opened her remarks with a firm emphasis on 3 words, “Learn to discern”.
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She discussed her time with the media and talked about the use of multiple disciplines in combatting disinformation & fake news.
“As a member of the media, there is always a desire to stay ahead in terms of any major news breaking out”, she said.
She noted that there is always a rush to publish breaking news, but delivering genuine content is more important. A major 'hit' could be highly satisfying to readers, but consumers deserve to know the truth, and that is the priority media outlets should focus on.
She also highlighted how mainstream media seemed to be losing ground as consumers opted for social media-based content. However, with the meteoric rise of fake news on trending social media apps, consumers are now looking to the mainstream media for credibility.
Participants of the workshop voiced a number of opinions, ranging from the responsibility of the state to ensure genuine media content to the intentional publication of fake news by media outlets to bolster consumer viewership.
“Perhaps it is only the state that can ensure regulation of authentic news cycles on such a macro-economic scale, so their role in this situation is vital,” said one participant.
Concluding the workshop, Shafqat Munir emphasized how news cycles have dramatically changed over the years.
He explained that a new era of alternative truth has prevailed, making it difficult to keep up. If not dealt with now, fake news can act as a major, and perhaps lethal threat to society.
The workshop concluded with participants receiving certificates for their participation.