Are law and technology a solution to fake news?

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Source: The Hindu 

Relevance: Importance of historical thinking for tackling fake news.


Stakeholders are attempting to find a robust and effective solution to filter fact from fiction. In this regard, some experts have suggested the inculcation of historical thinking amongst the masses in order to curb the menace of fake news.

  • Fake news and its associated social problems have been a major concern. The Indian government has been attempting to bring in several legal amendments to deal with its creation, propagation, and effects
  • Social media companies, too, are investing billions of dollars into technological solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify fake news and its proliferation. However, such measures aren’t fully effective to tackle fake news.
Issues in tackling Fake News:
  • First, the rising cases of fake news in the country testify that formulation of laws only does not prevent a wrong action. The legal system needs to become more robust before it can be considered an effective solution.
  • Second, the AI models use enormous amounts of power and leave a huge carbon footprint.
    • A ‘Transformer’ model, as of January 2019, used 6,56,347 kilowatt-hour (kWh), producing a carbon footprint of 6,26,155 lbs of CO2 equivalent. 
    • It incurred a cloud computing cost between $9,42,973 and $32,01,722 for a single training of the AI model.  
    • Further, since the models tend to use text already present on the Internet, there is a tendency for the AI to reflect strong negative human biases.
  • Third, the problem is aggravated by the decline in history learning programs worldwide.
    • While the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum has elements of historical thinking, State boards are primarily focused on the memorization of content.
    • The majority of contemporary conflicts in India are rooted in historical claims around politics, culture, and religion. These will intensify if the historical assumptions and data behind related fake news are not analyzed.
  • While the National Education Policy, 2020, captures the needs of the nation, it misses out on historical thinking. We need to inculcate historical thinking to tackle the menace of fake news and uphold Article 51A(h) of the constitution.
    • Article 51A(h) – It shall be the duty of every citizen to develop the scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform.
    • Historical thinking is the set of thinking skills required for learning history. It consists of concepts like points of view, evidence, validity and reliability of the source, contextualization, and corroboration, apart from other skills.
  • Historical Thinking in the case of fake news: A person should be able to read a piece of news, examine the source for bias and ascertain whether the claims being made are factual or whether they constitute deliberate misinformation
    • Since fake news is designed to appeal to emotion, it becomes all the more important that a person is skilled at interrogating evidence, contextualising the information, and corroborating it with alternate sources.
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