“Fake news”, the need to be cautious in “understanding” messages on social media, and the “language” used while responding to them dominated the conversation at the BJP’s Social Media Volunteers Meet held in Gurgaon on Sunday morning, with both Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasising these points in their address.
“Fake news is meant to spread sensationalism and harm someone. If fake news comes about us, we must immediately check its credibility and seek information about it. If it is confirmed to be fake, we must refute it immediately. However, we should also not put out any fake news ourselves. We must respond to fake news and ensure whatever information that goes out from our end is true, so that our personal influence is increased,” said Khattar.
Reiterating this point, Sitharaman said, “It is our duty to take the truth and information to everyone in the right manner. It is also our duty to be alert about false news being spread by opposition parties. We must ensure the regular public is not confused because of false news. People always spread such things on social media, as their aim is to spread false information and confuse voters. If we recognise this, then we can put a stop to it. There should be a small group in our IT cell dedicated to fighting such fake news.”
The Defence Minister also cautioned volunteers against unverified handles on social media that, she claimed, are run by “the enemy country” to “spread tension and communal disharmony”.
“The enemy country is running many handles on social media that seem Indian, but are actually false and unverified. Some agencies abroad run such handles, through which they aim to spread tension and communal disharmony. It’s difficult to tell which handles these are. We may think it is someone from our country or our own village, and take their message seriously or engage with them.
“This is dangerous, as we do not know the origin of such handles. We must move ahead carefully in this regard because, in the election environment, and especially after Pulwama and Balakot, we have noticed many such handles suddenly emerging on social media, which are not original handles of our country, but are giving inputs on our political discourse,” she said.
Sitharaman also asked volunteers to be careful of the “style” and “language” of their messages on social media, as well as the “topics” they engage in: “Your language and style of responding are both important. You must keep your decorum in mind, as well as the culture of our party, and speak carefully. Don’t use emotionally strong language which will take away from the strength of your argument.”
“If there is a topic in which you are interested, you must engage in that, but if you are not completely understanding a subject, you must think about it or speak to someone and only then join the conversation. If you are not comfortable, and put your argument forth, it will become clear you lack an understanding of the subject,” she said.
Khattar similarly warned volunteers against engaging in conversations, or with messages about which they do not have a complete “understanding”. “If you respond to anything, first understand it completely. If you feel there is no clarity, try to clear it from the source. If the source is from some other party, look for a solution from seniors from your own party, but understand the message before responding,” he said.