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Polls Midway, Social Media Still Fighting Fake News

WhatsApp has also launched a research project in India where over 200 million users in the country can tip off fake news, misinformation and rumours related to elections

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A third kind of disinformation campaign simply aims to increase a foreign audience's everyday, incidental exposure to "fake news." Pixabay

The great Indian election season has hit midway – with three phases of voting now over and four more to go – but social media platforms are still scrambling to control the spread of election-related misinformation.

Social media “warriors” are busy propagating “reworked” and “reoriented” content related to political news, government scams, historical myths, patriotism and nationalism on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

“Apart from the fake news and doctored contents, chatbots are sending bulk WhatsApp messages on active mobile numbers, not only on WhatsApp but on Facebook Messenger as well,” nation’s leading social media expert Anoop Mishra told IANS.

There are several cases where people who joined Facebook renamed their Pages, Groups and accounts later, only to use it for spreading their political agenda in the election season.

Despite Facebook’s efforts, such misinformation is thriving and has reached mammoth levels, say experts.

“Over 90,000 groups on WhatsApp and more than 200 fake Facebook Pages and accounts are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content,” said Mishra.

The content involves fake statistics of the government’s policies to news prompting regional violence, from manipulated political news, government scams, historical myths, propaganda to patriotism and Hindu nationalism.

Two main political parties are leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to voters via various social media platforms.

Social media platforms, however, say they are proactively disabling bots and fake accounts being used for political interference in India.

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Just days ahead of the general elections in India, the expansion of the test “Labels” feature on the app could help the cyber cell and other law enforcement authorities to nab hateful, abusive and fake news spread on the app. Pixabay

Facebook said recently it is removing or blocking about one million abusive accounts a day with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools.

The social media giant has also removed nearly 700 Pages, Groups and accounts in India for violating its policies on what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” and spam.

It now has Ad Library, a searchable database, in place in India. Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

On the other hand, Twitter has announced a new tool within the platform to make it easier for users to report attempts to interfere in the general elections in India through spread of misleading information about voting.

It earlier launched an Ads Transparency Centre that allows anyone to view details on political campaigning ads and billing information in India.

WhatsApp has also launched a research project in India where over 200 million users in the country can tip off fake news, misinformation and rumours related to elections.

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Launched by PROTO, a media skilling start-up, the tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint — a research project commissioned by WhatsApp.

Are these measures sufficient to curb the fake news in the world’s biggest election?

“The social media giants began their work towards safeguarding the India elections a bit late and some of the measures were announced near to the poll dates. It is difficult to tell if these measures will bear fruits and tame the fake news factories or not,” lamented Mishra. (IANS)

Next Story

Pakistan’s Fake Social Media Accounts Spreading Lies on Kashmir

Pakistan has adopted the strategy of giving a religious colour to its propaganda campaign, posing a fake threat from India, while reminding India of the consequences of the rise of extremist forces

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Social Media Icons. VOA

Fake social media accounts, often emanating from Pakistan, continue to paint a grim picture of Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

From passing off a High Court-ordered drive to clear illegal encroachments on forest land in Himachal Pradesh as “barbarism” in the Kashmir valley to terming mobile phone restrictions in the region as “siege in Kashmir”, a false narrative propagated by Pakistanis’ propaganda machinery finds many takers on social media, partly due to relentless promotion by fake accounts.

“Pakistani terror & proxy war paraphernalia burning vehicles, attacking fruit growers & merchants, killing & threatening shopkeepers, enforcing shutdown and calling this SIEGE,” Imtiyaz Hussain, a top IPS officer in Jammu and Kashmir, said in a tweet on Thursday.

“For all those ‘SIEGE’ obsessed reporters. There’s no SIEGE in Kashmir except some restriction on mobile phones which’s being lifted soon. Post 5th August except initially for few days, there hasn’t been any restriction imposed by Govt. Roads & streets are full of people, vehicles,” Hussain said in an earlier tweet.

Fact-checking website BOOM on Wednesday reported that a two-year-old video of clashes between protesters and security personnel in Kashmir is now being shared as the reaction of Kashmiris following the scrapping of Article 370.

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The end of Article 370 heralds a new beginning for many Kashmiris, despite the doom and gloom in some quarters over its revocation. Pixabay

For more than one month now, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations wing of the Pakistan armed forces, is busy spreading fake news related to Kashmir in a bid to sow seeds of discord among security forces and fuel hatred among citizens in India.

As part of its information warfare, Pakistan has resorted to spreading propaganda, fake news, threatening statements and manipulating the social media.

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Pakistan has adopted the strategy of giving a religious colour to its propaganda campaign, posing a fake threat from India, while reminding India of the consequences of the rise of extremist forces. (IANS)