Wednesday June 19, 2019
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Twitter Takes Multiple Steps To Curb Misinformation Before Elections in India

More than 80 per cent of the Twitter accounts linked to spread of disinformation

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Twitter, tweets, India
The Twitter logo appears on a phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.. VOA

Twitter is taking “multi-variable” steps, including the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, to curb the spread of misleading information on its platform ahead of 2019 general election in India, Co-Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said here on Monday.

Addressing a Town Hall-style meeting at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D), Dorsey said fake news is a way too big category.

“The real problem is not misinformation per se as jokes can also be categorised as misinfomation. But misinformation that is spread with the intent to mislead people is a real problem,” stressed the Twitter CEO who is in India on a week-long maiden visit.

Dorsey, who got a rousing reception at IIT-D with the students wildly cheering the young entrepreneur, likened solving the problem of misleading information to that of addressing a security issue, or building a lock.

Twitter, India
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

“No one can build a perfect lock, but we need to stay ahead of our attackers. AI could probably help,” Dorsey told the audience.

Earlier in the day, the Twitter CEO met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and discussed various steps the social network was taking to curb the spread of fake news and boost healthy conversation on its platform.

Dorsey also met Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama over the weekend. He was also expected to meet Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the wake of the growing criticism over Twitter’s role in the spread of misinformation and fake news as India faces Assembly polls in five states in November-December ahead of next year’s general elections.

Twitter, India
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Twitter, along with other social media platforms, including Facebook, came under intense scrutiny of policymakers in the US for their failure to stop the spread of misinformation by Russia-linked accounts on their platforms during the 2016 Presidential election.

The micro-blogging site since then has stepped up its efforts to curb the spread of divisive messages and fake news on its platform.

To further protect the integrity of elections, Twitter recently announced that it would now delete fake accounts engaged in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviour.

India, elections
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses the gathering during the ‘Global Mobility Summit’ in New Delhi, India, VOA

As part of the new rules, accounts that deliberately mimic or are intended to replace accounts that were previously suspended for violating rules may be identified as fake accounts, Twitter said recently.

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom to Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

However, according to a Knight Foundation study released in October, more than 80 per cent of the Twitter accounts linked to spread of disinformation during the 2016 US election are still active. (IANS)

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India: Sugar Mills, Distilleries under The Scanner of Special Task Force of UP Police for Links with Hooch Syndicates

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol

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India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

As more than a hundred people died in ‘poisonous hooch’ tragedies in Uttar Pradesh during the past one year, a few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Working round the clock to bust ‘killer syndicates’ supplying cheap industrial alcohol to bootleggers and gangs involved in manufacturing of illicit liquor, STF has seized more than 10,000 litres of rectified spirit in raids across the state in the past one month.

Industrial alcohol allegedly used in hooch is distilled ethanol and is usually used in manufacturing of paints, fragrance, printing ink and coating. As it is cheaper, the liquor syndicates get it smuggled from distilled ethanol manufacturing units. On June 16, STF seized 5,750 litres of rectified spirit (high concentration alcohol) from the possession of a big time crime syndicate active in Lucknow and Kanpur.

The STF rounded up the kingpin, Suraj Lal Yadav, along with six other members of the gang. During interrogation it was discovered that Yadav was well-connected with some distilleries in Haryana. Large quantities of industrial alcohol was smuggled out of Haryana and pushed into hooch manufacturing dens in UP.

Concerned about frequents deaths in UP due to consumption of poisonous hooch, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a statewide crackdown on illicit liquor manufacturing gangs after 21 people died in a hooch tragedy in Barabanki two months ago. The STF, considered the state’s premiere crime busting agency, subsequently geared up to intercept scores of tankers and private vehicles being pushed into UP from Delhi and Haryana.

India, Sugar Mills, Distilleries
A few sugar mills and distilleries have come under the scanner of the Special Task Force of the UP police. Pixabay

“The syndicate involved in smuggling of rectified spirit has spread its tentacles in the state. Even murders have taken place in disputes relating to the smuggling. But our raiding parties are determined to bust the gangs. Innumerable cases have been registered by us in the past one-and-a-half years,” said Amitabh Yash, Inspector General(IG) of STF.

Even though the STF, after rounding up the accused handed over the investigation of the case to the district police, the agency is said to have the most precise data on organised crime in North India.

“We seldom investigate the cases as it involves prolonged court work, so our main aim is focused on cracking heinous crimes, particularly organised by crime syndicates. At the moment, gangs involved in illicit trade of hooch are our target,” said Amitabh Yash, known for his skills in dealing with underworld operations and syndicate crimes. When asked whether a few officials of the excise department and a couple of distilleries could be linked with smugglers of rectified spirit, the IG said a report was given in this connection to the government.

While high excise duty makes liquor expensive, hooch, on the other hand, is available for less than Rs 20 per bottle. At places the rates are less than even Rs 10 per liter. A report, in connection with the Saharanpur hooch tragedy in February 2019 which took the lives of over 50 people, reveals that the quantity of rectified spirit mixed in the drink was so high that it had the effect of poison.

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The report says that rectified spirit was smuggled by criminal gangs which were hand-in-glove with local authorities.

“The gangs have links in distilleries and chemical factories from where industrial alcohol is smuggled out at a very cheap price. It is later re-packed in drums and transported to hideouts of manufacturers (of illicit liquor),” said a source in the police.

With widespread sale of hooch across UP, CM Yogi Adityanath has instructed DGP O.P. Singh to take stringent measures against the culprits and ensure that police secures conviction of those accused who are put on trial in cases of hooch smuggling or hooch-related deaths. (IANS)