Facebook and WhatsApp have become fake news factories in India

Date Published: April 8, 2019 Last Updated: April 8, 2019

With just a week to go for the general elections, Facebook and Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp have become factories for fake news, according to a news report. A lot of activities are being run on Facebook where names of Pages, Groups and Accounts have been renamed to push a particular political agenda. Such activities of renaming pages have become common and artificial intelligence algorithms are not able to handle such a huge volume in a country where users of Facebook are around 30

  • A lot of fake accounts and pages are active on Facebook which are linked to either to the Congress or BJP.
  • "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," said social media expert Anoop Mishra.
  • 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 Vajpaaye Fans" with over 10 lakh followers) being used to push a political agenda and are actively doing the rounds across the platform.
  • Despite Facebook's efforts, spread of such misinformation has not stopped and is only going to increase as the first phase of voting begins from April 11.
  • Pavan Duggal, cyber law expert, said, "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."
  • The pressure on social media platforms has been mounting because the Indian government has now formulated new IT guidelines where they have to remove any unlawful content that can affect the "sovereignty and integrity of India" within two hours.
  • 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.
  • Mishra also claimed that 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." He said this was done to connect and influence voters with half-baked and misleading content.