SPREADING fake news and rumours is a grave offence. Intentional or unintentional circulation of fake news adds to public frenzy and chaos, and causes a situation to go out of control. In these uncertain times, creating and spreading lies through social media has become an organized endeavour. To put a curb on this phenomenon, governmental as well as non-governmental agencies the world over are working to find ways of solving this grim issue. Recently, social media platforms, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, initiated talks to form an industry-wide alliance to tackle fake news on their platforms in India. (Economic Times, February 19, 2020)
The proposed alliance, Information Trust Alliance (ITA), will bring together social media platforms, digital publishers, content creators, fact-checkers, civil society actors and academics to spread awareness about fake news and harmful misinformation among netizens through collaborative efforts. The companies are also discussing a possible ‘Code of Practice’ to curb misinformation.
The alliance proposes to run public awareness campaigns in schools, colleges and universities, conduct workshops with content creators, and work with academia to find innovative solutions. The Centre’s nodal agency for issuing releases to the public, the Press Information Bureau (PIB), has created a fact checking unit in order to tackle fake news on social media. Social media platforms had been key factors in spreading misinformation and creating panic among citizens related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to media reports. But now these platforms have announced a crackdown on misinformation in the light of the pandemic.
Islam takes a harsh stand against the spread of lies, calumny and rumours. Fully aware of the scale of injury and damage a lie can inflict, the Prophet of Islam said, “The Impact of the tongue is harsher than the impact of the sword.” (Abu Dawood)
According to Islam, every news that reaches you should be verified before it is passed on. The Quran says:
Believers, if an evil-doer brings you news, ascertain the correctness of the report fully, lest you unwittingly harm others, and then regret what you have done. (49: 6)
To be labelled as a liar, one need not tell lies intentionally. Islam labels one as liar if one passes on unverified news. The Prophet said:
“It is enough lying for a man to speak of everything that he hears.” (Muslim)
Thus, spreading misinformation is not just a crime in the worldly sense but also a grave sin. God takes a very serious account of it. According to the Quran:
When you were spreading it with your tongues and saying with your mouths things of which you had no knowledge, you considered it to be a trivial matter, but, in God’s sight, it was very serious. (24: 15)
Islamic injunctions in this regard ask us to verify news before we take action. If we are not in a position to verify news items, we can put the matter before experts. These experts can bring to the fore the facts of the matter and remove any misperception or misrepresentation.
Mental agony and physical injury caused by fake news or lies are of a very serious nature. Fake news and rumours can corrupt and damage our societies critically. To inculcate the spirit of speaking truth in society, Islam has set down specific guidelines. The Quran asks its readers to hold truth dearer than their kith and kin:
Believers, be strict in upholding justice and bear witness for the sake of God, even though it be against yourselves, your parents, or your kindred. Be they rich or poor, God knows better about them both. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice. If you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that God is well aware of all that you do. (4: 135)
Unintentional spreading of lies and rumours is attributed to the hasty and impulsive nature of human beings. To dissuade people from being overhasty and imprudent, the Prophet said:
“Patient deliberation is from God and haste is from the Satan.” (Tirmidhi)
People should be extremely cautious about every word that they utter. They will be held accountable for not only the deeds they perform, but also for the words they speak. God has an impeccable system of recording our words. “Each word a person utters shall be noted down by a vigilant guardian.” (50: 18). The Quran also says: “Believers, fear God, and say the right word.” (33: 70)
Source: Spirit Of Islam