Politics of fake news

Date Posted: June 1, 2019 Last Modified: June 1, 2019
Politics of fake news: How whatsApp became a potent propaganda tool in India Photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

With over 200 million active users India is WhatsApp's largest market. However, the rise of the platform has also led to an increase in the dissemination of misinformation campaigns. It's end-to-end encryption makes it a favourite among people or groups looking to spread fake news for personal profit or political gain. This has led to not just panic but also incidents of brutal violence caused by the spread of hateful fake information. The paper explores what makes WhatsApp such a popular application in the Indian context, the ways in which people use it and the existing laws in India which make it difficult to trace the origin of fake news. 

  • WhatsApp's features which make communication easy, affordable and user friendly has led to it large user base and made it a potent tool for the spread of propaganda in India.
  • People tend to be believe news on WhatsApp as true as it is usually shared by someone they know. The platform has also made it easier for forms of media other than literary texts such a audio, video or pictures to be shared. This is especially among the less literate sections of the Indian population who are more vulnerable to fake news.
  • Most users are a part of WhatsApp groups which share their ideology. The platform has also been targeted by political parties, used for both communication and propaganda in order to influence public opinion to serve their interests.
  • Indian laws pertaining to modern technology are effective and in certain cases do not fit the requirements such as WhatsApp. There is a need to review existing laws or a new law which deal with these issues while keeping the right to freedom of speech intact.