Rumours about the New Covid-19 Variant “Omicron” in Mumbai has caused a state of panic among the General Public. A South Africa returnee in Dombivli was tested positive and this news spread like wild fire and went viral in South Media Platform. Now news emerges that the returnee has tested negative
Leading Scientists have declared that the New Covid-19 Variant “Omicron” has not touched India. The Dombivli case was merely a rumour.
Even as the world battles with the new variant “Omicron” pandemic , the authorities around the world are forced to face a Tsunami of false news on digital platforms although India does not have a specific law to deal.
Such misinformation and rumours must be stopped immediately. It will not be out of place to mention that the advent of internet, social media platforms and real time messengers has given a free run to criminals, miscreants, nation states and other motivated actors. In fact, society, today is experiencing something called an ‘information disorder’ where it has become extremely difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood.
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar on Monday assured that no case of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron has been reported in Mumbai and alerted authorities to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
She adds that there is not a single patient in Mumbai who has been infected with the Omicron virus. Around 100 people from South Africa have come to Mumbai and surrounding cities. One of them tested Covid-19 positive. His medical report is being examined. But, at present, there is no Omicron infected patient in Mumbai.” Mayor Kishori Pednekar further said that as per the instructions of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, all possible decisions are being looked upon to control this new virus.
Notably, tensions have often been a breeding ground of information operations. the authorities around the world are forced to face an avalanche of misinformation / false news about the virus on digital platforms. When it comes to reliability and acceptance of any information, people’s trust have shifted from traditional to internet /social media platforms.
It is intriguing why can’t the Law enforcement agencies equipped with power under law are mute over the matter?
Why can’t they take legal action against anyone who spreads rumors about the virus and causes a state of panic among the general population. Even though, at present, India does not have a specific law to deal with menace of fake news but we still have existing legal provisions under Section 505(1) Section 66D and Section 54 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 etc which can be invoked in case of misinformation.
There have been dozens of arrests for spreading rumours about the coronavirus. One such arrest was of a lady spreading a fake claim that the disease did not exist using her youtube channel.
It may be noted that any kind of panic at this time of
epidemic due to unverified and false messages among masses will have devastating effects and compound the miseries of people already suffering. In the coming days when a large portion of the human race remains under lockdowns, the intensity and frequency of online communications is bound to surge. The state and its different enforcement apparatus have to remain ever vigilant in the online and virtual worlds to protect individuals and society from the lurking dangers of an Infodemic.
This entails timely detection of content before it goes viral and causes widespread damage, taking it down with the help of social media platforms and intermediaries and tracing the sources of such mischief. Media outlets and the press also have an enhanced responsibility to make people aware and increase literacy about the menace of fake news and misinformation.
News Input : K.V.Raman
News Complied By Riddhi Patil