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How to Stop Fake News?

ET Cases, 7 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Bala Bharathi Yelamanchi and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

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How to Stop Fake News?

"The true things rarely get into circulation. It's usually the false things."

- Marilyn Monroe

UK-educated Mohammad Azam (Azam) who worked in Saudi Arabia and Qatar for a few years returned to India and was happily living with his family and infant son. On July 13th 2018, as it being his weekly day-off, the 32-year-old Hyderabad-based techie working for Accenture went on a long drive on a hired Innova to attend a function at Bidar, Karnataka, along with his 3 friends including a Qatar national, Mohammad Salham (Salham).

After attending the function, on their way back, they stopped the car near a government school for a break. As Salham was carrying chocolates brought from Qatar, he distributed them to some of the children who were returning from the school. Parents of the children who have been receiving videos and message alerts about child-lifters through WhatsApp, suspected them as child-lifters and picked up an argument with them. In the meanwhile, a few people in the crowd started taking their pictures and videos. Sensing that things were turning awry, they rushed into the car and sped off the place hoping that they could save themselves from the potential mob frenzy. However, before they could reach the next village (Murki), their photos and videos went viral in Bidar district portraying them as 'child-lifters in red car'. Consequently, Murki villagers blocked the road with a fallen tree and boulders in an attempt to stop their car. Startled and bewildered, Azam and his friends tried to escape by speeding their car which has hit the tree and toppled into a ditch. Soon after this, their car was surrounded by a mob of more than 2,000 villagers from all the sides and they were dragged out from the car, kicked and beaten gruesomely with stones and sticks...........................

A Spate of Fake News Led Lynching Cases

Azam’s lynching is not a one-off case triggered by the fake news circulated on social media, especially WhatsApp. This incident came to light amidst a spate of lynching cases reported across India in the last few months. In a repeat of Jharkhand killings a year ago in which eight people were lynched, a spate of lynching incidents was reported from May 2018 across 10 states. From Jharkhand to Tamil Nadu and Assam to Gujarat, fake messages and videos were shared that went viral like wildfire. Incensed with these unauthorized and unverified news binge, people had let their wild imaginations flare resulting in a mad mob lynching spree...........

Steps to Contain WhatsApp Triggered Menace

Indian government and WhatsApp have been scrambling to contain the fake news menace. In the wake of fake news menace that has impacted country’s law and order situation, the Supreme Court, asked Parliament to consider enacting a new law to effectively deal with mob lynching incidents, saying “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become a new norm...........

Companies Combating Fake News Controversy

Even companies have been victims of fake news being spread through various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. PepsiCo India secured an interim order from Delhi High Court to put an end to Kurkure controversy on social media. As the fake news, defamatory content and jokes circulating in the social media suggesting that Kurkure has plastic in it had adversely affected its brand reputation, it had to file a case in Delhi High Court...............

Discussion Questions

I. What is fake news and why has there been a spurt in fake news in recent times?

II. Who creates/manufactures/fabricates fake news? What could be the motives behind creating fake news?

III. Should social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. be held accountable for spreading the fake news?



Exhibit I: WhatsApp Triggered Fake News Menace in Karnataka

Exhibit II: WhatsApp Triggered Mob Lynchings

Teaching Note Preview

How to Stop Fake News?


The purpose of this Teaching Plan is neither to outline the answers to Case Debate's discussion questions nor to suggest an ideal way of conducting an effective debate basis the given topic. It is more to share the authors' perspectives, basis their classroom orchestration of this Case Debate, on possible ways of orchestrating this Case Debate.

Purpose of the Case Debate

Purpose of this Case Debate, which is a prelude to the Case Method of Teaching, is to inculcate the following skills [Exhibit (TP)-I] that would amply benefit the participants during their careers.......

As this Case Debate is based on a very generic topic, the purpose is not to dwell into only the research-based inputs but more to prepare the students/participants for the process of case discussion - except that while the case discussion would be based on case facts, the Case Debate encourages the students/participants to present their ideas with no rigorous business dilemma................



Exhibit (TP)-II: WhatsApp Users In India In Comparison To The Population Of Other Countries

Exhibit (TP)-III: WhatsApp’s Rising Coverage in Rural India

Exhibit (TP)-IV: Social Media Platforms Crack Down on Fake News

Exhibit (TP)-V: Classroom Orchestration Plan – How to Stop Fake News

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Product code: CSR-9-0014, CSR-9-0014A


On July 13th 2018, a man was beaten to death by a mob of villagers from Murki in Karnataka's Bidar district on suspicion that he was a child-lifter. 32-year old Azam died on the way to hospital while three of his friends accompanying him were injured when the villagers descended on them with sticks and stones. What was the reason? A video that was circulated with the suspicion that these men were child-lifters. While 30 persons were arrested, is this mob violence justified based on a "suspected" video? During the recently concluded elections in Karnataka (May 2018), fake stories circulated on social media about Congress MLA, Aditi Singh's 'marriage' to Congress President Rahul Gandhi. A disconcerted Aditi, a management graduate from Duke University in the US, had to step in to scotch the rumors, saying that canards were being spread for political reasons. Her terse official statement read: "Such rumors upset me. I would like to clarify that Rahulji is my rakhi brother and I am really saddened by such rumors on social media". Can fake news be fatal? There seems to be enough evidence of that. According to an IndiaSpend analysis, between January 1st 2017 and July 5th 2018, 33 people were killed and 99 injured in 69 reported cases of fake news-triggered mob violence. The victims of the two lynchings in Telangana in May 2018 were suspected of being child-lifters. Similar suspicions, triggered by WhatsApp forward messages, led to lynchings in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. This is over and above the lynchings in the name of the cow. Tourists, beggars, migrants, men, women, civil servants - anyone can be mistaken for a child-lifter by a mob primed for a killing and looking around for a victim. It is time to take concerted action against those who spread killer rumors, by the Centre and the States Governments working together. While Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Government have announced a slew of measures, would they be sufficient to arrest the social menace?

This Case Debate centers around (a) The sources of Fake News (b) The event pattern of the Fake News in the news feed (c) The extent of damage caused by Fake News (d) What steps the social media platform companies – Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc. – have taken to curb the practice of forwarding the fake news (e) What steps should Central and State (including UTs) Governments should take to arrest the growing menace and instill responsible behavior? (f) How to increase citizens’ awareness on the ramifications of fake news?

Purpose of this Case Debate, which is a prelude to the Case Method of Teaching, is to inculcate the following skills that would amply benefit the participants during their career:

(a) Ideation
(b) Discussion and Debate
(c) Empathy
(d) Appreciation

Case Debate Positioning and Setting

Depending on the purpose, this Case Debate can be used for either of the following:

  • MBA Programs – Corporate Social Responsibility course – To discuss and debate on the social media platform companies’ (Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc.) social responsibility to build enough and more checks and balances to verify any potentially damaging social news being shared through their platforms
  • Undergraduate Programs/BBA Programs – To sensitize the participants – given their age and tendency to spread the sensational news liberally – of the socially malignant implications of either resorting to or abetting fake news and to underline their responsibility

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- Teaching Plan (**ONLY for Academicians)

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