The Internet gave us access to everything; but it also gave everything access to us’
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has always been an issue of international scrutiny and an affair of many wars and treaties. For time immemorial, the beautiful land mass of Kashmir has been embroiled in clashes aplenty. What started out as diplomatic conversations, evolved into fights, wars, battles… and now cyber rumour warfare.
Through various social media handles like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and the like, with hashtags that classify all information relating to one topic in one place, it has become extremely easy for information to spread like a raging wildfire. It is also interesting to note that in this era where smartphones are easily available at a low cost, it has been possible to also create multiple accounts and multiple pages by one individual to disseminate the rumours at a faster rate.
It has been observed by Jency Jacob, managing editor of BOOM, a website which works in partnership with Facebook to fact check stories and tags specific posts spreading misinformation on the platform, said social media users were sharing fake news blindly and emotions were running high through the same. Facebook has also vowed to treat discussions on Kashmir with top priority and to remove content that violates its community standards through fact-checking in 10 languages.
Throughout the years, it has been observed that the internet has enabled fabricated news of protests, uprisings, stone pelting, crackdowns and the like during unprecedented times causing further unrest and chaos making it an arduous task to establish calm and peace in the Valley at a faster rate. It has also been observed that such data is fed into the databases by radical individuals and agencies from Pak and the same transcends borders and finds itself being shared by Indians living in the Valley and out, unbeknownst to its falsities. Zeroing in on every individual who shares and posts such false data also becomes a daunting task since rounding every individual up is like finding needles in a haystack.
Through a scrutiny of social media sites, the perpetrators are following the trend of taking advantage of any current crisis or situation and fabricating details, pictures and data that aim to blow the looming crisis out of proportion. Photoshopped images are also on the rise with many individuals having learnt the knack of using the technology, so as to entice people to believe the data they share. But, we, unfortunately are living in a world where we should not believe in what is seen, heard or said and should research on any word and any page before arriving at a conclusion.
Various lies of all shades are also released and shared by individuals regarding the Governance of the Nation, the Armed forces, the geopolitical situations, on a range of assorted topics that are baseless allegations with no factual backing, whatsoever.
COMBATING RUMOURS AND INSTILLING PEACE
The petulant behaviour of India’s neighbours and its many layered attempts to break the peace and harmony of the Valley has time and again been thwarted, through cyber means, by controlling the use of the internet or by reducing the internet bandwidth.
Various attempts have been undertaken, both by establishing a positive presence in all arenas of Social Media and also by cutting off the access to internet resources to counter and combat the spread of fear, that serves to be the greatest accelerator for terror and chaos.
Fear and doubt when fed occasionally with rumours and false information, with the aim of enhancing them, has a cascading effect. It multiples doubts, increases confusion and this in turn makes people turn against their own land. With various questions having arisen in the past as to how a region’s internet and communication can be cut off, the masses fail to understand that the same is done for ensuring peace and stability in the Valley, to ensure that the negative elements of the society will not be able to carry out any attacks with ease, that would cause heavy losses and damage to the civilian population. It has also been observed that these anti-national elements have the capacity to target the population with sensitive content both moral and religious in nature, to sway the temperament of the common folk. This will only fuel the fire and set the people on a path of confusion, since the internet is a vast universe with millions of inter-connected people who might share information without knowledge of its false and malicious nature. Along with the usage of jammers during convoy movement, reducing the internet bandwidth and temporarily shutting off access to the internet are some of the measures employed to ensure the reduction in speed of rumour spreading.
The above is just few of the many posts in the Web that does not hold any truth or sanctity in itself. This is precisely why it is mandated to control or severe the usage of internet facilities in times of havoc in order to ensure peace in the Valley subsists. This process and concept, for ease of assimilation, can be equated to the mandate of social distancing in the wake of Covid-19, required and necessary to ensure that the issue at hand does not become worse and to cut the rate of spreading. The virus of false propaganda and rumours is as dangerous as the spread of a biological virus, with the former leading to the death of democracy, so to say.
Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the Axe’. To achieve any form and any means of growth and development, it is imperative that multifaceted methods of various degrees are undertaken to ensure that all are travelling with the same rapport and towards the same goal.
Due to the growing number of social media users, rumour spreading has become a serious issue that affects both the normal social order and the public opinion of the online environment.
The Kashmir Valley, the Paradise on Earth, should be made a paradise in all ways… which is the ambition of the Nation. In order to reach this ambition, it is sometimes imperative to cull out the truth from the false, to identify peace from violence and place a step forward towards a streamlined democracy, a united Nation.