Thursday, January 07, 2010
At around 1:30PM yesterday the Twitter vine was abuzz with news of Veteran Communist and ex-CM of West Bengal (the Godfather of Indian Red Brigade), Jyoti Basu's death! Apparently, there was one article in some (freak) blog which claimed that Jyoti Basu was indeed dead and the government was to announce the news in anytime soon. The article also said that the hospital officials were delaying the news just to make sure there were no hiccups later on but the 'Red man on India' was dead for certain.
The Twitter enthusiasts spread this news with such rapacious pace that 'Jyoti Basu' in fact became a 'Trending topic' on Twitter with people not just querying about his death but also making sure that their communist jokes were shared with everyone on Twitter (and then there were counter attacks too!) - all triggered by the fake news of his death.
This incident raises a lot of questions for people (like me) who have been champions of New Media freedom and how the social/collaborative media can also become a responsible news making machine - news from the masses to the masses! The major problem for New Media proponents has always been one of accountability. A blog with a good following may not always mean that the people behind it are responsible reporters, the fact that they have followed good SEO practices and have influential Klout scores could push them up the influencers stack without verifying the accountability quotent and the validity of the content posted.
For most people surfing the Internet, Google and other search engines serve as not just a mechanism to 'find' news but also a yardstick to measure the quality of the content, a listing in the top 10 would make the article authentic beyond doubt for most of us!
As soon as this news broke out yesterday there were people scrambling all over the Internet to 'report' the incident. Even Wikipedia (which is considered an authority in most cases) saw rampant activity on the Jyoti Basu's page with people trying to edit the information to put a death date for a still living man!
If Social Media wishes to be taken seriously by the critics and people at large the occurrence of such incidents should be brought down to zero and people doing this irresponsible reporting should be penalized (even if that means taking them off the search engine's listings!)