All that goes viral is not real

All that goes viral is not real

Submitted by Subeditor on Fri, 2016-01-22 14:50 Malappuram: While social media has taken news dissemination to unprecedented heights, the veracity of the stories shared on the platform is often a matter of concern. Many news organisations have made bloopers by carrying stories that are trending or viral online without running any background checks, only to be apologetic later. Here is one such incident that happened with news organizations in Kerala. It all started when Akhilesh Kumar, an engineer in Dubai, posted on Facebook about an experiece he had while in Kerala. The post written in Malayalam was made to the group "Right Thinkers", and it became an instant hit as it had a very touchy narrative. Sensing a potential for the story to go viral even more rapidly, the story was picked up indiatoday.in. Here's how the news website played the story: "A man entered Hotel Sabrina, run by C Narayanan, in Malappuram in Kerala for dinner, after an all day long meeting, and placed his order. As his order arrived, the man noticed a pair of small eyes, outside the window, wistfully looking at the food served at various tables.  A little ragpicker. Man gestured the little boy to come in, and he came in with his little sister. He asked them what they'd like to have and the boy pointed at the plate on his table. He ordered another plate. When the food was served, the little boy couldn't contain his excitement. Just before he started, his sister held his hand, stopping him. He understood she wants them both to wash their hands before starting. The kids quietly finished the food ordered for them. Neither did they speak to each other, or smile. When done, they rose, looked at the man, washed their hands and left. The man hadn't touched his food yet. He felt full. He finished his meal and called for the bill. When he got back to the table after washing his hands, he saw the bill and it moved him to tears he had been holding back all this while.  The bill had no amount, but a message for him. It read, "We don't have a machine that can bill humanity. May good happen to you.  As expected, the story did go viral after being picked up by indiatoday.in, and the other vernacular and national news media followed suit. And then comes the twist  Just hours after publishing the story, indiatoday.in seems to have had a realization of sorts. It immediately published a follow up story titled "Kerala man's bill story now has a twist. Was it fake?" Apologizing for what could perhaps be an error of judgement, the story reads: “We spoke to the hotel representatives again, they had a different story to share. The owner, C Narayanan, told us he had no idea who the cashier at the counter was, and that none of his employees remember such an incident taking place. He also said they have been receiving many calls from journalists around India. We reached out to Akhilesh, and he accepted the bill was fake, but said the story is not. He said the incident happened in 2013 and he had written it down, but posted it on Facebook only this January.”   This follow up story by inditoday.in sort of candidly admits that the story does not have much news value as it was built around a fabricated bill and published without any stringent checks to ascertain its veracity. Who is to blame? So, man posts on FB. Post shows signs of going viral. News website picks it up and turns it into a story. Story shows signs of going viral. Other news media pick it up. Finally, the story becomes a real news story, and is found to lack authenticity. This is pretty much how the entire incident played up. In a situation like this, it is not fair to pin the blame on just one entity alone. It is a collective responsibility. The social media and netizens have yet again proved that a shrewed fabricator can also become a broad minded messiah within a fraction of second while our media organisations underlined their commitment towards ethical journalism with “human interesting” story.