Misinformation severe deterrence to progress: BIPSS President

President of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman on Tuesday said fake news and misinformation are severe deterrence to the progress of any nation.

"Therefore, it’s of paramount importance for individuals to know how to discern fake news from authentic ones, especially for the youth," he said at the BIPSS workshop titled, "Developing a Critical Understanding against Fake News & Disinformation", held in the city.

Muniruzzaman said society has evolved at a rapid pace in the last decade but so have the methods of producing fake news.

The BIPSS President said key information, such as the legitimacy of the Covid-19 vaccine, are put under question due to propaganda media production as a result.

“The most prioritised target audience of misinformation is the youth. They’re a vulnerable population and it’s important for us to make sure they can distinguish between what’s authentic and what’s fake,” said Muniruzzaman.

He said the impact of misinformation is absolutely pervasive and it touches all the sectors of society. "This can lead to massive security implications and result in social destabilisation."

The interactive workshop was attended by young professionals, students and youth representatives from various disciplines.

There were two sessions and both the keynotes at the sessions were presented by Ayesha Kabir, Consulting Editor of Prothom Alo (English) and Shafqat Munir, BIPSS Research Fellow and Head of the Bangladesh Centre for Terrorism Research (BCTR).

Ayesha Kabir opened her remarks with a firm emphasis on three words, “Learn to discern”. “As a member of the media, there’s always a desire to stay ahead in terms of any major news breaking out,” she said.

Ayesha Kabir discussed her time with the media and talked about how rummaging through fake news has become a daily affair.

She added that there is always a rush to publish breaking news but delivering genuine content is what is most important. There could be severe reader satisfaction from a major ‘hit’ but consumers being able to read the truth is what media outlets ought to prioritise.

Ayesha Kabir also highlighted how fake news was good news for media outlets. The mainstream media seemed to be losing ground as consumers opted for social media-based content.

However, with the meteoric rise of fake news on trending social media apps, people now look to the mainstream media for legitimacy of information.

Following Ayesha Kabir, Shafqat Munir began his presentation recalling a famous quote by Al Gore: “Fake news has been around as long as news has been around.”

He pointed out that during the pandemic, the credibility of news information is even more important. “Social media has the largest density of fake news and this is quite concerning. Fake news consumption is very high since the number of users of these apps is tremendous” he said.

He talked about the need to adapt to new technologies and methods and be able to critically discern the right from the wrong. “The authority of news sources must be verified.”

The participants of the workshop voiced a number of opinions ranging from the responsibility of the state to ensure genuine media content to intentional publication of fake news by media outlets to bolster consumer viewership.

“Perhaps it’s only the state that can ensure the regulation of authentic news cycles on such a macroeconomic scale so their role in this situation is vital,” one of the participants said.

Concluding the workshop, Muniruzzaman emphasised how news cycles have dramatically changed over the years.

He explained that a new era of alternative truth has prevailed, and it was difficult to keep up with it. "If not dealt with now, fake news can act as a major, and perhaps lethal, threat to society."

The workshop concluded with participants receiving certificates for their participation and new wisdom on how to combat misinformation.

Source: United News of Bangladesh