Tuesday October 15, 2019
Home Lead Story India Polls: ...

India Polls: ‘All-Time High’ Fake News Storm Hits Millions

The country has 366 million Internet subscribers in urban locations and 194 million in rural areas

0
//
India Polls, Fake News, Millions
Reaching out to the old people, who are newly getting introduced to smartphones and social media is a challenge. Pixabay

Veena Arora, a retired school principal in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, decided to use a smartphone in November last year for the first time at the cajoling of her children so that the family could stay together online even though they live in different cities.

In no time, she joined WhatsApp and started getting updates from family, relatives and friends. Then started the flood of forwarded messages from people in her contact list.

These forwards, many of which contained fake news, surged during the election time. Arora had no idea that these could be propaganda material. She became aware of the problem only after one of her sons alerted her about a fake political message she had forwarded.

“I never knew how a post could be fake or bogus. Photoshopped? I could never figure out if the message loaded with political information was right or wrong. For me, it was just information, which I kept sharing with friends and family members,” Arora told IANS.

India Polls, Fake News, Millions
These forwards, many of which contained fake news, surged during the election time. Pixabay

Arora is among an estimated 300 million users — mostly first-time smartphone users, from the smaller towns and rural areas with no prior digital experience — who are particularly vulnerable to sharing fake information on social media platforms.

“The biggest challenge to fighting fake new is that over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy and are especially gullible,” leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy told IANS.

“For them, we need prominent messaging and public education on the dangers — that fake news kills,” Roy emphasised.

The country has 366 million Internet subscribers in urban locations and 194 million in rural areas, says the latest TRAI report.

Also Read- Palestinians Inaugurates First Solar Plant to Reduce Dependence on Israeli Power Sources

The “ICUBETM 2018” report from market research firm Kantar IMRB said that the number of Internet users in the country will reach 627 million by the end of 2019.

According to Govindraj Ethiraj, Founder – BOOM, which has collaborated with Facebook, Google and Twitter, among others, to fight misinformation, educating new social media users about the dangers of fake news is a major challenge.

“Although millennials are no less vulnerable to fake news, they could be taught about its dangers through the introduction of education programmes in schools or advertisements. Reaching out to the old people, who are newly getting introduced to smartphones and social media is a greater challenge,” Ethiraj told IANS.

He, however, noted that once awareness increases among the general population, old people could also be educated.

India Polls, Fake News, Millions
Mostly first-time smartphone users, from the smaller towns and rural areas with no prior digital experience — are particularly vulnerable to sharing fake information on social media platforms. Pixabay

“Many times, children teach their grandparents a lot of things,” Ethiraj said, while adding that fighting fake news is a daunting challenge.

“The spread of fake news reached an all-time high in the run up to the 2019 general election, despite social media platforms fighting them back by combining people (fact checkers) and technology,” Ethiraj added.

But this “fight back” has warned the organised fake news peddlers as they run the risk of getting exposed by fact checkers.

The number of eligible voters in the Lok Sabha elections this year was around 900 million. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have nearly 300 million users each in India.

Also Read- Limiting Phone Use Can Reverse Sleep Problems In a Week

Facing flak from different quarters for the spread of misinformation on its platform that were linked to dozens of lynching cases in India last year, Facebook-owned WhatsApp also introduced advertisement education programme in over 10 languages.

All these efforts, however, had only limited success in curbing spread of disinformation during this election season.

“Fake news has been a primary and significant driver of sentiment and passion through this election,” Roy said.

“Even now, on the eve of the counting day, fake news is being seeded by political influencers on Twitter (for example, Bollywood actress Payal Rohatgi saying Khan Market in Delhi is named after a Mughal invader and must be renamed Valmiki Market) and instantly being circulated on WhatsApp,” he added.

India Polls, Fake News, Millions
over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy. Pixabay

A part of the problem is that for many of the social media platforms India is a bigger market than their “home” market, said Ethiraj.

“These products were probably not originally designed to deal with the diversity and vastness of the India market, but they are now trying to adapt to the Indian situation and deal with the unique challenges that the country poses,” he said. (IANS)

Next Story

Users’ Data Privacy hits Facebook Research on Fake News

Facebook was fined $201,865 dollars for the breach and nearly $79,000 for failing to provide notice of the breach

0
Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

A research initiative launched in cooperation with Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal has hit a roadblock as the social media platform is not keen to provide more sensitive and detailed data without compromising user privacy.

According to a Nature report on Thursday, the US-based research initiative funded 12 projects that were designed to investigate topics such as the spread of fake news and how social media was used in recent elections globally.

“Last month, the 8 charitable funders – which so far have provided a total of up to $600,000 for the scheme called the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants programme – gave Facebook time until 30 September to provide the full data set or said they would begin winding up the programme,” the report elaborated.

Following this, Facebook released a further data set, but not the full range originally promised.

“Other partners that are involved in the project say they are continuing their efforts to build a computing infrastructure that allows the company to share its data with researchers, irrespective of the funders’ decisions,” the Nature report further said.

“This is one of the largest sets of links ever to be created for academic research on this topic. We are working hard to deliver on additional demographic fields while safeguarding individual people’s privacy,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

facebook, instant games
FILE – Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

There are multiple calls to break up Facebook in the wake of several data breaches and spread of misinformation on the platform used by billions of users.

Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, recently said that he firmly believes that simply breaking them up will not make the problems go away.

“The real solutions will only come through new, smart regulation instead,” he added.

Turkey on Thursday fined social media giant Facebook for over $281,000 for a data breach that exposed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of users in the country.

Also Read: Xiaomi Selling Over 43 Mi TVs per Minute During Festive Sale on Flipkart, Amazon

Facebook exposed the name, gender, birthday, relationship status, educational background, religion, hometown, personal data and location information of 280,959 users, said the Personal Data Protection Authority — Turkey’s watchdog agency for data privacy.

Facebook was fined $201,865 dollars for the breach and nearly $79,000 for failing to provide notice of the breach. (IANS)