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Facebook, WhatsApp Become Fake News Factories in India: Report

On the social media platform, “some of the Pages and Groups with massive followings are directly in touch with the IT cells of the political parties”, claimed Mishra

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A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

By Nishant Arora

Barely a week away from when the world’s largest democracy goes to polls, the fake news factories on Facebook and its owned WhatsApp have become active like never before as the social media giant scramble for solutions which are few and far between.

The game on Facebook is different from other social media platforms as Pages, Groups and accounts have been renamed to push the election agenda as per the demand coming from the political quarters.

According to social media experts, renaming the Facebook Pages or Groups to promote political campaigns and influence voters have become common and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven algorithms are not sufficient to handle such a huge volume in a country where Facebook has over 30 crore users and WhatsApp another 30 crore monthly.

“There are over 200 Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers which are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content,” leading social media expert Anoop Mishra told IANS.

There are fake profile Pages created by fans of journalists like Ravish Kumar (“I Support Ravish Kumar” with over 18 lakh followers) and Punya Prasun Bajpai (“Prasoon Bajpayee Fans” with over 10 lakh followers) being used to push a political agenda.

There are several such examples where people who joined Facebook renamed their Pages, Groups and accounts later, only to use it for spreading their political agenda.

Despite Facebook’s efforts, such misinformation is thriving and is only going to reach mammoth levels as the first phase of voting begins from April 11.

“For the social media players, India is a huge market and they want to grow… On the other hand, they have consistently failed to stop the spread of fake news and propaganda on their platforms,” Pavan Duggal, the nation’s leading cyber law expert, told IANS.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

The pressure on social media platforms is enormous with the Indian government now formulating new IT guidelines where they have to remove within 24 hours any unlawful content that can affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India”.

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

“From fake statistics related to various government policies to news promoting regional violence, manipulated political news, government scams, historical myths, propaganda to patriotism and Hindu nationalism — WhatsApp has it all in the election season,” Mishra had said earlier.

The failure to stem fake news is evident from the recent statements from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an interview with RTE News on Tuesday, he said Facebook cannot yet guarantee that it can stop foreign actors that are trying to interfere in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

Also Read- Twitter Tests ‘Labels’ To Encourage Transparency on Twitter

Facebook first came under the scanner of policymakers around the world after allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections surfaced.

In India, Facebook has hit on several fake Pages and accounts linked to Congress as well as the BJP but the task at hand is humongous.

On the social media platform, “some of the Pages and Groups with massive followings are directly in touch with the IT cells of the political parties”, claimed Mishra.

The purpose, he added, is to connect and influence the voters with their half-baked and misleading content. (IANS)

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Content Moderators on Facebook and YouTube Asked to Sign PTSD Forms

Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign PTSD forms

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Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign forms detailing that the job may cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Pixabay

Content moderators at Facebook and YouTube in Europe and in the US have been asked to sign forms detailing that the job may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to The Financial Times and The Verge, global professional services firm Accenture which provides content moderators for big tech firms have asked them to sign a form, explicitly acknowledging that their job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

Accenture runs at least three content moderation sites for Facebook in Europe, including in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin. A similar document was also provided by Accenture to workers at a YouTube content moderation facility in Austin, Texas. Accenture said the wellbeing of workers was a “top priority”.

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Accenture runs at least three content moderation sites for Facebook in Europe, including in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin. Pixabay

“We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do,” the company said in a statement.

“According to an employee who signed one of these acknowledgment forms, every moderator at the facility was emailed a link and asked to sign immediately,” the report said.

The Accenture form says workers might review “disturbing” videos and that moderating “such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Both Facebook and Google said they did not review Accenture’s new form.

The Verge’s probe last month into Accenture’s Austin site described hundreds of low-paid immigrants toiling in, removing videos flagged for extreme violence and terrorist content.

Also Read- Tech Giant Apple Becomes One of The Fastest-Growing Brands in India

“The moment they quit Accenture or get fired, they lose access to all mental health services. One former moderator for Google said she was still experiencing symptoms of PTSD two years after leaving,” the report claimed.

Last year, The Verge published a report of Facebook moderators and one of them said he “sleeps with a gun by his side” after doing the job. (IANS)