The most fundamental commodity of globalisation is information: the amount that is attained and shared, the speed and at which it travels, its reach, and its potential impact have all drastically increased in the last 30 years. The world grows ever smaller, and our ability to transmit information becomes easier and easier. Yet, misinformation functions in this same way: it’s no coincidence that “fake news” has become one of the most popular neologisms in the past two years, and its impacts are far more devastating, and often, deadly.
If the spread of information is essential to the functioning of democracy - note the presence of a free and fair press clause in every major constitution - then fighting misinformation is essential to preserving political freedom. As Bangladesh looks toward the future and plays an increasing role in the global political economy, it is essential that the practice of free, fair, and factually accurate information be made readily accessible, and that the public is made aware of their right - and duty - to be politically informed. What this entails is civic education as part of the primary and secondary school curriculum, training in information security and cybersecurity for those in higher education, workforce - and not least of all, government. As social media becomes an integral part of daily life in Bangladesh for millions of its citizens, it too must be addressed and the public must be educated in its uses and its limits.
These are practical concerns, but a more fundamental, essential need to fight misinformation is to promote tolerance. In a society in which people are classified by many intersecting identities - race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and more - it is more important than ever that we fight against disinformation that pits us against one another. Instances of religious extremism have been stoked by the spread of misinformation in Bangladesh, putting the lives of vulnerable groups at risk. Those who are complicit in this violation of justice should be held accountable for their role in spreading misinformation. A Bangladesh that looks toward the future can only do so if it acknowledges the power of the word.