Fake news, whether it is deliberate and unintended could have grave consequences and branded media could lose its business, net worth and the shirt off its back if they did a hoax piece and got caught, Times Network CEO, MK Anand Thursday warned.
"While the new medium comes with this major potential, there is a dark side to it. Fake news, deliberate and unintended, has grave consequences," Times Network managing director and CEO M K Anand said.
Anand said it's all the more dangerous when we realise that the news consumer is still driven by an almost 200-year old habit of trusting the published word.
While publishing technology has leap-frogged, the same cannot be expected of the consumer brain, he said.
"What do anonymous social media jockeys or address-less bloggers and opinion websites have to lose? Worse still is the propagation by message apps, with no address of source," he said adding, regulation and consumer education has to urgently adapt.
He further said in the context of digital news, the other critical issue besides fake news that needs to be confronted is the concentration of power and therefore potential threat that search and social intermediaries and platform owners can pose.
"As a news practitioner, I can tell you one thing. Ensuring that my news gets to your screen is not as simple as it looks. Behind your seemingly 'in control' act of choosing my channel and staying tuned, is a highly complex data-driven activity," he said.
Talking about traditional broadcast, he said a consumer's choice is always influenced by a series of invisible steps that broadcasters take in placement, distribution and visibility, among others.
"This power gets magnified when the medium through which you access stories, the algorithms that decide which story to place in front of you when you search, is owned and operated by corporations that may not be easily regulated," Anand said.
He, however, said he was not blaming such entities for willful subversion at all, and that they have robust systems to ensure fair play.
But concentrating power of this nature can have unintended disastrous consequences, he said.
"Today, search rules on such platforms can overnight change which news brand gets watched over others. A third-party platform that wields such absolute power that determines survival itself for news players can be dangerous to democracy," he added.
Anand said media business has a natural and instinctive affinity for democracy and it cannot exist without democracy.
"In non-democratic regimes, news media are mouthpieces supported by regimes or vested interests. They cannot be called independent businesses at all," he said.
Market forces have ensured that news media in democracies have by and large overtly or covertly worked to strengthen democracy, he added.
He noted that media is a trust product and has always been one of the most brand sensitive businesses.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)