The Rise of Fake News and Disinformation in Bangladesh Ahead of Crucial Elections
Fake news, disinformation, and misleading information have become a growing problem in Bangladesh as the country gears up for national elections early next year. This surge in false information has disrupted the information ecosystem and caused confusion among the masses.
Various tactics have been employed to spread fake news and disinformation. False news cards have been created, smear campaigns targeting politicians have been intensified, and deepfake technology and artificial intelligence have been introduced to manipulate information. Politically affiliated individuals, including those connected to the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, are responsible for these tactics.
The impact of these disinformation campaigns is significant. The spread of fake news restricts the ability of the public to make informed decisions, violating their right to receive accurate information. This not only affects the general public but also poses a challenge for journalists and their ability to deliver critical reporting.
Recognizing the severity of the situation, the cabinet committee on law and order held an internal meeting with top officials from security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. They identified the spread of fake news and political propaganda as a major obstacle to maintaining law and order. Subsequently, law enforcement agencies engaged with Facebook authorities to address the issue.
The alarming increase in misinformation and disinformation poses a threat to the state as a whole. Research conducted by fact-checking platforms has highlighted the prevalence of fake news stories and disinformation. In the months of June, July, and August, over 500 pieces of misinformation were identified, including 36 political rumors in June, 38 in July, and 58 in August.
Fact-checkers have debunked numerous false claims, including fake news about the detention of prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s son and an alleged leaked video of a BNP politician. These fact-checking platforms play a crucial role in combating the spread of disinformation.
Both major political rivals in Bangladesh are involved in spreading fake news, with the number of such incidents escalating as the election approaches. Fake news cards featuring logos of reputable news outlets have become prevalent. Additionally, a recent investigation revealed that numerous articles praising government policies were published under questionable credentials, fake photos, and potentially non-existent authors.
Experts fear that the problem of fake news and disinformation will intensify even further in the run-up to the election. They emphasize the importance of professional journalism and urge media outlets to refrain from indulging in clickbait reporting.
To address the issue, the Bangladesh Election Commission has sought support from social media platforms, including Facebook, in removing political posts deemed disinformation during the election period. The government is also considering measures to improve transparency and accountability, such as urging social media platforms to establish offices in Bangladesh.
As the number of internet users in Bangladesh continues to grow, it is crucial to address the spread of fake news and disinformation. The efforts of fact-checking platforms, law enforcement agencies, and social media platforms will be crucial in ensuring the dissemination of accurate information and maintaining a fair and informed democratic process.