Fake news and misinformation are a severe deterrence to the progress of any nation, so it is essential to enable people, especially youth, to distinguish fake news from the authentic, said specialists at a workshop on Tuesday.
"The most targeted audience of misinformation is 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," said major general (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS).
The impact of misinformation is absolutely pervasive and it touches all segments of society. This can lead to massive security implications and result in social destabilisation, he said at BIPSS's, "Developing a Critical Understanding against Fake News and Disinformation" workshop at a hotel in the capital.
Shafqat Munir, research fellow at BIPSS said our society has evolved at a rapid pace in the last decade but so have the methods of producing fake news. Consequently, key information, such as the legitimacy of the Covid-19 vaccine, is being questioned due to production of propaganda media.
Therefore it is of paramount importance for individuals to know how to discern fake news from the authentic, especially for youth, he added.
Young professionals, students, and youth representatives from various disciplines, attended the interactive workshop.
There were three sessions with the opening presentation delivered by Sharlina Hossain-Morgan, cultural affairs officer of the US Embassy in Dhaka, followed by Subham Barua and Tasnuva Alam Ahona, interns of the BIPSS Research Team. The final session was presented by Ayesha Kabir, consulting editor of Prothom Alo (English), said a BIPSS press release.
Questioned about what do to when there is an institutional deficiency in providing authentic information, Sharlina Hussain-Morgan emphasised that youth should not feel powerless when it comes to tackling these challenges and that they should take firm initiatives to fix the problem as the nation's future generation of leaders.
In their presentation, Barua and Ahona said, "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 is tremendous."
Ayesha Kabir opened her speech with a firm emphasis on three words, "Learn to discern".
She said media outlets always want to stay ahead in terms of any major breaking news. There is always a rush to publish breaking news but delivering genuine content is what is most important. There could be intense reader satisfaction from a major "hit" but consumers being able to be read the truth is what media outlets ought to prioritise.
She also highlighted how fake news was good news for media outlets. 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, people now look to mainstream media for legitimacy of information.
Participants at the workshop voiced a number of opinions ranging from the responsibility of the state to ensure genuine media content to 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 a macro scale so their role in this is vital," one participant said.
Concluding the workshop, Shafqat Munir emphasised how news cycles have dramatically changed over the years. He explained that a new era of alternative truth is prevalent, and it is difficult to keep up with. If not dealt with now, fake news can be a major, and perhaps lethal, threat to society.
The workshop concluded with participants receiving certificates for their participation.