Why Facebook Is Taking India’s Fake News Problem To Its Newspapers – Forbes


From Brexit to the U.S. presidential elections, the unexpected outcomes of several major recent political events internationally have kicked up a storm of concern over how social media is being used–by individuals, companies, and even governments–to spread misinformation and to manipulate public opinion and behavior.

Facebook is currently having to turn over to Congress more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements that were bought by suspected Russian operatives to influence U.S. voters. For those eager to communicate controversial or even downright false views unmediated by editors and fact checkers, social media provides huge, easy to leverage global reach.

As a result, distinguishing between factual information, advertisements, and propaganda has become an increasingly difficult task for the average internet user worldwide. But in India, with its massive population, the popularity of social media apps, and the speed at which they enable false information to spread, the menace of fake news has the potential to take on truly gargantuan proportions.

India is now both Facebook and WhatsApp’s biggest consumer base. Over 241 million Indians are on Facebook while WhatsApp has over 200 million Indian users. From doctored photos and videos to false and incendiary claims about particular communities or religious groups, sensationalist predictions of natural calamities, death rumors, and bogus medical advice, fake news stories and memes are shared rampantly via these platforms in India every day. Even the social media machinery of the BJP, India’s ruling political party, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has long been widely alleged to participate in the fake news game.

Whether or not fake news has a negative impact on public life seems to no longer be the question; the question going forward is how can we fight it?

Last week, Facebook took things a step further by launching a campaign in India to spread awareness about how to spot fake news. Significantly, instead of restricting its message to the digital domain, it issued full page ads across major newspapers nationwide— PSA style posters comprising tips to identify fake stories, with the message â€œTogether, we can limit the spread of false news.” Earlier this year, similar ads were issued by Facebook in newspapers in countries as varied as Great Britain and Kenya, ahead of elections.

This is particularly noteworthy in India, because, while the country may be obsessed with Facebook and Whatsapp, it is also the world’s largest consumer of newspapers.


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