While rains and floods in the Indian state of Kerala have created havoc, and relief efforts are just barely coping, secondary school students in the coastal city of Kannur are attending some very important lessons on, ‘What is fake news?’
The answer, “Fake news is completely false information, photos or videos, intentionally created and spread, to confuse the public, spread mass panic, provoke violence and get attention.”
Even though 95 percent people of the city, which has a population of 2.5 million, are literate, Kannur too has been a victim of fake news and misinformation spread over WhatsApp in the recent years.
According to a report by BBC, district officials have started 40-minute long fake news classes in 150 of its 600 government schools to combat the situation.
The classes are curated with a combination of words, images, videos, simple classroom lectures and skits that educate the students on the dangers of fake news and also how remaining silent and forwarding things mindlessly can cause mishaps.
Last winter, parents of about 2.5 lakh children in Kannur refused the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children after a fake message saying that the vaccine harmed children went viral. This led to the immunisation drive being stopped.
With over 200 million users, India is one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets. Fake news and videos are rampant on the Facebook-owned messaging platform. We already know of the various cases of WhatsApp-led lynchings. In times like this, the Kannur initiative, which is the first of its kind in India, is imperative.
Similar efforts in the rest of the country, especially with children, should help spread awareness about the dangers of fake news.