The impact of social media is getting more vibrant in our daily life. Nowadays, social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc can beat any mainstream media outlet in terms of reaching people with utmost efficiency, variation of information and feedback from the audience. Moreover, many of the mainstream news media agency now relies on social media to circulate their news content for commercial benefit. But the matter of discontent is, social media platforms are also being used widely for circulating forged content to mislead certain community while fulfilling required agenda by vested quarters. Lots of authorised and unauthorised platforms are now evolving from all over the world to spread fake or fabricated contents, which is very alarming for general populace as they can be misguided by these fake contents. Like other countries, Bangladesh is also suffering from this ‘bug’ almost for the last decade and it is getting wider day by day. Taking into account a number of incidents that took place based on false and misleading content, it has been observed that Bangladesh paid a lot in cases of government-topeople connection, social harmony and socio-economic development.
IF CATEGORISED, FAKE CONTENTS ARE MAINLY OF THREE TYPES,
Now, let’s examine a few incidents that happened centring the false content of social media in Bangladeshand what or how much impact we have experienced
VIOLENCE OF RAMU BUDDHIST TEMPLE AT COX’S BAZAR:
A gang of zealots inflicted violence on the Buddhist community in Ramu on September 29 and 30, 2012, by creating a rumour that a local Buddhist student named Uttam Barua had posted something offensive to the Holy Quran on his Facebook page.
More than 50 homes in Ramu were vandalized and looted by the bigots, who also set fire to the Buddhist temples and residences. They also attempted to break into the Hindu homes in Kharulia village as well as the Mushurikhola crematorium in Khurushkul, a village in the Cox’s Bazar Sadar upazila.The following day, the extremists destroyed two Hindu temples in the Palongkhali union of the upazila and assaulted and pillaged five Buddhist temples in the neighbouring Ukhiya upazila. In the Hoaikong union of Teknaf upazila, they also set Buddhist homes on fire and ransacked them.
But, further investigation discovered that the Facebook page with offensive photo of the Holy Quran, which is believed to have inspired the assault, was fake!
RUMOUR OVER HEFAJAT’S SHAPLA CHATTAR MOVEMENT
During the movement of Ganajagoron Mancha at Shahbagh, a blogger named Rajib was killed on February 15, 2013 after being allegedly claimed as an atheist. After that Hefajat-e-Islam began to circulate various news through social media that some of the Shahbagh activists’ blog posts offended the “religious feelings of Muslims.” Though they failed to prove such kind of activity with proper evidence and documents. On May 5 and 6,2013Hefajat men marched to Dhaka and held a rally at Shapla Chattar with a 13-point demand, which included the passage of an anti-blasphemy act and harsh punishment for “atheist bloggers.” From that rally, leader of Hefajat threatened the government to siege the capital, as a result the government used a combined force drawn from the police, Rapid Action Battalion, and the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh to drive the protesters out of Shapla Square. While Hefajat claimed that 2,000 of its leaders and activists were killed in the incident, the government claimed only 13 deaths, including three police officers. However, Hefajat was also unable to provide names and addresses to back up its claim.
COMPARING BANGLADESH WITH SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is no doubt in dire financial straits now. The country has been added to the list of defaulter nations as it has been unable to repay large foreign loans taken for various ambitious megaprojects on time. Referring to the Sri Lankan crises, some people here often speculate that Bangladesh may face a similar situation to Sri Lanka in coming days due to ongoing foreign loan-powered megaprojects like the Padma Rail Link, Dhaka Metrorail, Elevated Expressway, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, and Matarbari Thermal Power Project.
It’s worth mentioning here that the economies of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are different. Bangladesh has plenty of food production. The country’s staple food is not imported. Bangladesh’s remittance and export earnings are increasing by the day. The country currently has a foreign exchange reserve of around $40 billion. In comparison, Sri Lanka has a reserve of around $2 billion only. Furthermore, Bangladesh’s per capita debt is $292.11, while Sri Lanka’s is $1,650. Considering the present economic scenario, it is not fair to judge the economy of Sri Lanka with that of Bangladesh on the same scale.
RUMOUR OVER PADMA BRIDGE
The 6.15-kilometer-long Padma Multipurpose Bridge built with Bangladesh’s own fund represents a significant turning point in the history of this country as an independent nation since it represents both the country’s resolve and growing economic capability. Originally, the Padma Bridge was intended to be constructed by the government with assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, the World Bank abruptly stopped supporting the project in 2012, blaming governmental corruption. As a result, other investors also stopped supporting the initiative. It has been alleged later, information regarding corruption on Padma Bridge was provided by with the help of some key personnel and organisation from Bangladesh like Dr Mohammad Yunus, BNP, TIB etc.
After World Bank’s such blaming, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a graft case in Banani Police Station, Dhaka against Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, ex-Bridges Division secretary; Kazi Mohammad Ferdous, the then superintendent engineer of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, and Reaz Ahmed Zaber, the then executive engineer of the Roads and Highways Department. Later on, in the investigation report provided to the court in September 2014, the ACC exonerated all of the defendants in the conspiracy case, stating that no one had been found guilty.
Along with this, the Padma Bridge bribery conspiracy was also not proven by a Canadian court. This court also cleared three businessmen of allegations that SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. employees plotted to bribe Bangladeshi officials in order to gain a $50 million contract to oversee the construction of the Padma Bridge. Focusing the corruption allegation of Padma Bridge a lot of fake content circulated that time resulting the creation of misunderstanding between people and government. In addition to that at beginning period of the time several mockery speeches from BNP chairperson and key personnel of the party about the quality and construction of the Padma Bridge also mislead the people towards the intention of the running government.
Several facetiousrumours also circulated on social media platforms such as Facebook that human heads would be required forthe construction of the Padma Bridge. As a result, many people were beaten and handed over to the police in various parts of Bangladesh while suspecting them as culprit behind supplying the head on Padma Bridge construction.
PROPAGANDA OVER STUDENTS’ MOVEMENT FOR SAFE ROAD
From July 29 to August 8 in 2018, Bangladesh witnessed a series of student protests calling for improved road safety. They were sparked by the deaths of two Dhaka high school students who were hit by a bus driven by an unlicensed driver. The incident prompted students to demand safer roads and stricter traffic laws, and the protests quickly spread across Bangladesh. This movement was supported by the mass as the safe road is a core public demand. But, just because of several propagandas from few conspiracy groups that movement was questioned.
Thousands of social media users shared information about the assassination of two/three/four protesting students. Another claim was that three or four female protesters were raped inside the Awami League office in Dhanmondi by Chatra League men. It was also rumoured that the dead bodies were kept inside the party headquarters. Later on,Awami League leaders brought five protesters into their party office to check for dead bodies or captive protesters. The students searched the party office but found nothing. Later, the students addressed the press, claiming that the rumours were false.
RIOT OVER RUMOUR OF ‘SAYEEDI ON MOON’
When Jamaat-e-Islami’s jailed war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was being tried in the court, a photograph of his face on the moon was circulated.The miscreants spread this fake information using mosque loudspeakers and mobile phones after 2 am on March 3, 2013, claiming that the government had secretly hanged Sayeedi and that an image of his face could be seen on the moon.
Sayeedi supporters flocked to the streets. Following the Fajr prayer, a mob armed with sticks and sharp weapons attacked and set fire to the Muktijoddha Sangsad, a Railway Station, a Police Station, and some other government establishments.At least 11 people were killed, including women and children in the mayhem unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir leaders, workers, and supporters.
PROPAGANDA OVER COVID AND VACCINE
While Covid-19 pandemic was at severe state in China, few European and Western countries; the government took initiative to strongly faceit and asked people to follow the guidelines from WHO and other health organizations in order to prevent Coronavirus. But it’s a matter of distress that a few of Islamic scholars in Bangladesh termed the Coronavirus as the ‘soldier of God’ and the ‘solider’ will only attack on ‘non-Muslim’ people. Few propagandas also spread from few medical personnel that, coronavirus is not effective against youth, it can only effect old aged people.
When it comes to Covid vaccination, then at first, BNP claimed this government could not manage the vaccine early, but when the government started vaccination promptly and widely than several leaders from BNP including, Mirza Fakhrul Islam, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi doubt on the quality of the vaccine and declared that they won’t take the vaccine. Although later on, all of the key leaders from BNP vaccinated themselves. A silly rumour regarding the vaccine was also spread by an Islamic scholar named Mufti Kazi Ibrahim that an electronic chip will be injected through the vaccine in takers body so that western countries can collect all the personal information through this chip. Till now no one find such kind evidence indeed!
RUMOUR OF ‘BANGABANDHU SATELLITE MISSING’
Bangladesh’s first artificial satellite Bangabandhu-1 was launched into Earth orbit on May 12, 2018 and began commercial operations in May 2019. After the launching, a report titled “Bangabandhu satellite went missing” went viral on the social media and other online portals defaming the government. Later on, concerned ministry addressed the issue and identified the news as a complete rumour. Further investigation found that ATMBD24.website, SB24.news, DLonlinetv.com and prothombangladesh.net were publishing the report. Along with them this fake news was also shared in many Facebook pages, including Basher Kella, a page which is used for Jamaat-e-Islami campaigns.
FINANCIAL CRISIS IN BANKING SECTOR
A lot of fake contents carrying false information are being circulated through social media to make the country unstable. Some social media posts claim that reserve of different bank is depleting day by day and most of the government and non-government banks are suffering from severe financial crisis (as a result people are getting panicked about this issue) although there is no authentic reference supporting this type of claim.
To sign off, Facebook being one of the vibrant social media platforms considering the huge amount of fake contents carrying misleading information started an initiative back in 2016 to rein in fake posts. In many countries and regions (including Bangladesh), Facebook is working with third-party fact-checking organisations who are certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to identify, review and take action against such kind malpractice. Their steps to identify fake news includes,
It has been noticed through above process that Facebook is reviewing and taking action after posting something. In fact, there seems to be no methodology in social media that can verify contents in terms of authenticity before posting. As a result, any content can be shared without getting verified. Along with this, the government too is not much aware of taking required initiative to minimise fake contents in social media in context of Bangladesh. However, the government needs to play an important role to rein in false content rather than requiring social media companies to take the necessary steps.
Even the mass people of the country can become editors themselves by learning the research process for determining the truth behind fake contents.
LET’S KNOW AS TO HOW FAKE CONTENT CAN BE IDENTIFIED:
Before posting and sharing any social media information carrying any such content we must review and justify whether the information or news is authentic through defined fact-checking mechanism. Personal responsibility is the first and foremost important step towards protecting our society from fake and malicious contents and their subsequent impact whatsoever.