The Networked Public – How Social Media is Changing Democracy is a good read, amongst other things, for all the thoughts it superbly footnotes. Amber Sinha has bravely questioned the moral authority of certain Former Chief Justices of India. Hon’ble Justice Dipak Misra quashed proceedings regarding a ‘bribery scandal’ that implicated him. Hon’ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi, when accused, termed it a ‘high-level conspiracy’. On both counts, words concerning the alleged acts, as described in the virtual world, can neither be believed or disbelieved. In times of deceit, being honest shall be revolutionary. Excerpt follows.
“In seventeenth-century France, the term ‘canard’ was used to describe a rumor or unfounded story, usually sold by hawkers on the streets of Paris. One of the most notorious canards was about the capture of a monster in Chile that was being shipped to Spain, complete with a report that included a copper engraving of a dragon-like creature. The primary consumption of information off online sources has led to the lack of a clear distinguishing line between fiction and factual truths. India has the second-largest number of Internet users after China. For a democratic society to thrive, individuals need to be active participants in discourses and not passive recipients. Running on almost all Indian smartphones and containing end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp has been used to disseminate various kinds of misinformation, which include political news and inaccurate stories on medicines, health, religion, history and science. In the last few years, there have been several fact-checking portals that have emerged. In a way, fact-checkers make the mistake of imagining recipients as politically sterilized, passive actors who will change their minds automatically. In reality, the public is much more complex and responds as per their own sense of identity, prejudices and preferences. For example, in recent times, the Court has been relying almost entirely on affidavits from public servants, and does not see within its role the need to question the assertions in them, even as they are being fact-checked. Even when detailed investigative reports were presented before the Court, it refused to engage with them on the grounds that it had no tools at its disposal to test their veracity.”