The real issue: The pandemic or misinformation?

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    The past 12 months have put the spotlight on two public issues – the global pandemic and spread of fake information during lockdown. We have recently witnessed India report the highest number of Covid-19 cases each day. Simultaneously, the government is constantly battling the spread of fake news, conspiracy theories, and unverified information going rampant across social media platforms.

    Fake news or misleading information is not a new trend. For years, the media has been after big tech companies to take on more responsibility to clamp down the spread of misinformation across social media platforms. The fight against misinformation has now been taken to the next level.

    A Solution in Sight? 

    Currently, there is no legislation or technology that can put a stop to the spread of misinformation. While there are ways to circumvent it, this requires active participation from everyone. This is not the time to sit back and blame policymakers or industry leaders for everything that is going wrong. We, as individuals, should take on some responsibility in preventing the spread of misinformation and be prepared with the necessary tools to protect ourselves, our mental health and others.

    Our Role 

    In most circumstances, misinformation or fake news accomplishes its task. The news taints the facts we rely on to comprehend the world around us. It further widens social divides and makes it more difficult to make the best decisions for our families, businesses, and communities at large. 

    So, it is imperative that people begin to question the information they receive and check its source. This can only happen when we work directly with individuals, businesses, and the wider community to help restore the integrity of information. 

    Misinformation and disinformation are eroding the bonds that bind our communities together. There is an urgent need for assistance in deciphering and communicating complex information to rebuild bonds. 

    Today, with our professional and personal lives becoming increasingly blurred, it’s impossible for outside influences to remain unaffected. Misinformation can manifest itself in a variety of ways in the workplace, such as unconscious bias or rumours that influence stock prices. Meanwhile, data literacy skills learned in the workplace can help reduce misinformation both within and outside the company.

    According to Censuswide research, there is a desire in individuals to upskill to perform well at work, so much so that over three quarters (78%) of respondents said that they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skillsets – if given the opportunity. Thus, organisations should ensure that employees have access to the right tools and build the right culture that will enable them to question and challenge information. We need to seek the truth behind a story and encourage letting people know when misinformation is being spread.

    By providing access to required data sets, organisations can empower employees to perform their job roles to the highest possible standards. For example, Indian Oil places an emphasis on having a data-literate culture in the workplace. Hence, even during the pandemic when mobility is restricted, a company was able to provide the right insights based on data generated from sales, purchase patterns, loyalty, bank data, and customer feedback. This helps the organisation manage their business through the pandemic. It is thus crucial for organisations to train their employees on data literacy skills so that more accurate insights can be generated to deal with potential problems.  

    Information should be empowering

    The ability to reduce the spread of misinformation is a matter of personal emancipation. The society at large needs to be empowered by educating people and communities against misinformation in their circle. This is done with the ability to recognise, respond, and challenge occurrences in a positive and productive manner. The current climate of misinformation along with widespread scepticism of data calls for unified action – this can only be achieved by helping individuals better comprehend, question, and communicate with data. Hence, we must always analyse the facts before conclusion.

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    Disclaimer

    Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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