The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which serves as a common discussion forum for multi stakeholders on internet policy issues was concluded on 3rd November on Kathmandu Nepal.

The forum was hosted by IGF National organizing committee including government and Internet Society Nepal Chapter where several discussions were held by plenary session on thematic issues such as Infrastructure of the Internet and its access, a leap towards cyber security, safer internet for children and young people etc.

Freedom Forum being one of the stakeholders working for internet safety, governance and media rights, held a session about “Fake News, disinformation and Social Media”. The session was moderated by Freedom Forum’s vice president and Internet Rights and Principle Collation steering committee member Sahaj Man Shrestha. He shared that fake news has been used as the source of propaganda since ages yet these days it is disseminated by new medium i.e social media sites.

He stressed, fake news in social media as well as online media has adverse effect on everyone’s life and focused on what fake news is, why it is important to distinguish false content with genuine content and opened the floor for the discussion on the same.

The panelists for the session were FF’s Executive Chief Taranath Dahal, Lecturer of Mass Communication and Journalism, Yam Bahadur Dura, Media Researcher Meera Raj Bhandari, Cyber Law Advocate Surendra Tiwari and Online Journalist Association President Shiva Satyal.

Mr. Dahal shared his view on fake content that misguide people who use social media and suggested everyone to be aware about it.  Not everything that is in the social media is genuine, he added. He majorly highlighted that people should be aware about the fake content. He also shared the ideas as how someone could spot the fake news.

Lecturer Dura majorly focused on the negative impact caused on people’s life due to fake content especially in developing countries like Nepal and India.

Ms. Rajbhandari shared that use of social media has affected the social norms and values that drives the society. She highlighted that female are more vulnerable in the social media making them prone to vulnerability so she suggested that measures must be taken to mitigate those risks.

Advocate Tiwari unfolded major lacking grounds in the legal context and shared what should be done to mitigate those shortcomings. He suggested that some laws should be amended in order to attend the legal safety from the possible threats from misguided content.

Journalist Satyal highlighted on growing online journalism culture in Nepal where he shared that online in Nepal is still in a minor stage yet flourishing well. Fake news on social media which goes viral easily is driven by the personal interest rather than the trustworthy content.

After the session from the panelist, the floor was opened for the discussion. The queries from the floor were addressed by Mr. Dahal and Advocate Tiwari.

Mr. Shrestha concluded the session highlighting the major points from the panelist where he focused on the idea that news is never fake but the contents are. Fake, contents are manipulated by the misinformation, disinformation and mal information that ultimately affect the channel by which they are disseminated such as visuals, newspaper, television, online portals, and radio. He said that fake news is a type of yellow journalism and social media are used widely for the dissemination of such content. Thus, he stressed that there is an urgent need to aware social media users on relevancy of the content.

In the name of fake news, government and authority also misuse their power to control independent media. This trend is increasing in Nepal, hence, stakeholders must draw their attention to protect and defend the Freedom of Expression rights guaranteed in the constitution. FoE should not be limited and compromised in the name of fake news.

Nepal IGF 2018 was 2nd Edition that was organized with the theme of “Making Internet Accessible, Affordable and Safe” The two day program was concluded on 2-3 November 2018 at Hotel Himalaya, Lalitpur.