Impact of Fake News on Democracy

The internet carries massive information that we devour every day but how much of this is credible? Time has come to be discriminatory about the information we consume as the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ has not only become a digital menace but also a monumental threat to democracy. Fake news is simply fabricated stories created for an ulterior motive to gain advertising profits or political mileage by mind manipulation and confusing the masses.

US presidential elections, 2016, have been implied to be the outcome of fake news which became viral with hundreds of websites publishing fabricated stories. One such famous one was of the Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump for president.

The very integrity of democracy is under fire when voter decisions are controlled by the plethora of fake news, alternative facts and post truth. Bias and misconstructions infect our knowledge when outright lies published by deceptive and ill-intentioned media are framed as trusted news. The political landscape is strikingly divided across ideological lines with profoundly different and sometimes irreconcilable worldviews. Societies divide into partisan camps with extreme polarization and political parties cease to see themselves as legitimate rivals but dangerous enemies. Partisan hatred poisons the democratic mindset which further fuels inter-caste tensions, communal disturbances, and anarchy. Election defeat becomes a catastrophe instead of an accepted part of the political process. For proper functioning of democracy, the citizens must know what is going on and form an opinion based on facts. It is important for citizens to distinguish between sponsored content, politically biased messages on social media and factual world news.

While social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google incorporate algorithms to curtail fake news, let’s see how we can help. After all your social media profile makes you an influencer in your own network. Avoid sharing stories that you are uncertain about. Refrain from “hate-clicking” on stories intended to appeal to your hatred towards someone or something which helps generate shares and advertising revenue. Share responsibly and break it to your friends gently if they are aiding to the fake news epidemic.

Use your critical thinking skills and ask yourself as to why this message is created. Is the news story sponsored content or profit generating? Does the author have an agenda or are they associated with a special interest group? What kind of topic does the author post and if this is the only one? Who else are they following on social media? Do they post or tweet hundreds of times a day, trying to relay a particular tone of the message?

Figure out if the article carries a bias. Sometimes it may be subtle so you need to read between the lines. Fake news aims to trigger emotions that make you feel happy, angry or sad. This play on your feelings blinds you from doing anything as irksome as fact-checking.

Recognize your own biases. Do a reality check to see if your own beliefs are affecting your judgment of a news report? We tend to agree with information we already believe in and discount those not validating our beliefs.

Human egos incline to go back to sources that reconfirm their individual biases. Some can be so deep-rooted that we sometimes don’t even recognize them. Dig deeper so that you understand why you stand for what you do. You may be outraged by a facebook post about a politician you don’t like, but push yourself to check other perspectives on this. You don’t have to believe it but open your mind enough to expose yourself to it. There are more sides to a story and don’t be a victim of confirmation bias that appeals to your ego.

If you are doubtful of a story, check multiple sources or discuss it with your friends to get a second opinion. You can cross-check with fact-checking sites like,, etc.

Don’t allow yourself to be a victim of propaganda that helps fulfill selfish agendas or add to advertising revenues. This rising threat to democracy can be controlled only when voters are well-informed public with accurate information and have facts over fiction. Be champions for the cause of good journalism and let real news flourish over fake news.


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