CHENNAI: A British Broadcasting Corporation report on fake news in the country suggests that pro-Modi political activity and fake news overlap, suggesting that the ruling party is actively and effectively peddling fake news about Prime Minister Narendra Modi across social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook.
In this end-to-end research initiative conducted by gaining access to phones from a wide demographic, the BBC found that fake news stories about India’s progress, Hindu power and revival of lost Hindu glory are widely being shared without fact-checking. It has been found that by sharing such messages, people feel like they are into nation-building.
“Whilst most discussion in the media has focussed on ‘fake news’ in the West, this piece of research gives strong evidence to suggest that a serious set of problems are emerging in the rest of the world where the idea of nation-building is trumping the truth when it comes to sharing stories on social media,” said Jamie Angus, Director, BBC World Service, in a release.
Interestingly, an overview of messages shared on WhatsApp alone suggests that almost 30 per cent of messages have a nationalistic flavour. Further, it has been found that more than two thirds of the messages considered to be nationalistic are about ‘cultural preservation’.
Speaking on challenges posed by fake news at the Beyond Fake News Conference organised by the BBC in the city on Monday, actor Prakash Raj attributed this phenomenon to the BJP. “They have intermingled nationalism, religion and patriotism and so they flood posts on social media blurring historical facts to push this agenda,” Prakash Raj said, drawing parallels to other majoritarian political propaganda and schemes over the last 100 years.
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While BJP spokesperson Narayan Thirupathy, who also took part in the conference, denied that it was a BJP-driven agenda, big data analytics of networks within Twitter suggests that right wing sources of fake news are closely linked in comparison to left wing sources. This allows right-wing agenda to spread more effectively, thereby reaching a bigger audience.
Despite measures being taken by Google, Twitter and Facebook to combat fake news, activists and media leaders, who took part in the conference, agreed the onus was on the consumer to verify content that he or she receives on social media. “In this forest fire of fake news, the people who are trees are also responsible for the spread,” Prakash Raj said at the conference, encouraging, journalists and students to question a piece of information before forwarding it.
The conference also included a play by Theatre Nisha, highlighting the simple yet compulsive ways misinformation is spread on social media and advertising.