In the battle against “fake news”, the most admirable Indian in the world says the solution may lie in science, not cosmetic surgery to avoid ‘liability’


As India heads towards epoch-making general elections, the role of “fake news”—as a device to spread lies, untruths, propaganda, hatred, misinformation and disinformation, to change or make up voters’ minds—is on many a lip.

In the backdrop of the US elections, social media platforms are making cosmetic changes to steer clear of the law. WhatsApp has limited forwards to five phone numbers at a time as opposed to 20 earlier.

There are regular noises from prime accused, Facebook. Last week, the organisation which has done much to undermine journalism pledged to spend $300 million over the next three years to save journalism like Google.

Prof Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Prize-winning president of the Royal Society, believes the answer may lie in science.

Speaking in Calcutta, he said:

“In science, it doesn’t matter who you are or where it has been written but an idea is accepted only because it can be reproduced in experiments and can be tested. And it can be reproduced anywhere in the world with the required training and expertise.

“In an era of fake news where even the existence of objective truth is being questioned, there is much at stake. Science with its insistence of evidence-based fact offers a counter to some these threats today.

“I think we need more scientists or people with an interest in science… to become journalists.”

The Telegraph reports that although “Venky” did not say so, the Royal Society’s motto “nullius in verba” (take nobody’s word for it) should be the single-most important guiding principle in newsrooms, which can weed out present-day pestilences such as fake news and headline management.

Read the full story: Take nobody’s word for it

Also read: Which Indian do you admire the most? Try “Venki”

Screenshot: courtesy The Telegraph

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