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Facebook Sends Its Representatives To Users’ Home in India, To Check Authenticity of Posts

Over 200 fake Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content, say social media experts. 

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Facebook
Facebook has partnered with external agencies for physical verification of the location of the advertisers. VOA

Facebook, facing the election heat in India and unable to stop misinformation and fake news circulating on its platforms, is busy doing something never heard of: Sending its representatives to users’ home to verify if the post with political content was actually written by them.

IANS has contacted one such Facebook user in New Delhi who was recently visited by a Facebook representative for the verification process related to the content the user had posted.

“It was like cops come to your door for passport verification. The Facebook representative asked me to prove my credentials by asking for my Aadhaar card and other documents to understand if I am the one who had posted the political content,” the person who did not wish to be named told IANS.

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Facebook-owned WhatsApp is another fake news factory where more than 87,000 groups are targeting millions with political messaging. Pixabay

The user was left stunned to see a Facebook representative landing at his home for inquiring about a post.

“It was a shocker for me. How come a social media platform does that to a user? What about a user’s privacy? I have never heard of any such incident anywhere. Was this at the behest of the government?” asked the user.

IANS sent a couple of mails to Facebook for their version on this but to no avail.

This kind of behaviour has not been seen or reported earlier even at the global level as several countries have gone through the elections with Facebook trying its best to curb misinformation.

According to legal experts, physically verifying a user is something that is unprecedented and called for tough action against the social media platform.

“This action, if true, clearly infringes upon the privacy of a user. Sending a representative to physically verify a user is a blatant invasion of his or her privacy space. Only the state can act like this under proper laws,” Pavan Duggal, the country’s top cyber law expert and a senior Supreme Court advocate, told IANS.

Facebook, Duggal said, can at best discontinue a Page, Group or delete the post, or remove the user from its platform as it has done so in the past.

When it comes to those who wants to run political ads on Facebook, the company verifies residency of advertisers either by physical verification (by sending someone to the address provided) or by sending a code in the post.

Facebook has partnered with external agencies for physical verification of the location of the advertisers.

To be approved by Facebook, one needs to have a residency in India and the verification process takes around four to five days, says the company which has close to 30 crore users in the country.

facebook
This kind of behaviour has not been seen or reported earlier even at the global level as several countries have gone through the elections with Facebook trying its best to curb misinformation. Pixabay

But physical verification of a user is gross violation and unwarranted under the ambit of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

“In such a scenario, the user can sue Facebook and even the government for allowing such activities under its nose that infringes on the privacy of a user,” Duggal noted.

The world’s largest democracy goes to the polls from April 11 and the social media giant is scrambling for solutions which are few and far between.

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Over 200 fake Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content, say social media experts.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is another fake news factory where more than 87,000 groups are targeting millions with political messaging. (IANS)

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)