Fake news thrives on Indian social media | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 03, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, April 03, 2019

Fake news thrives on Indian social media

WhatsApp starts fact-check service

Two weeks after a suicide bombing in Kashmir in February killed 40 Indian policemen, a Facebook user called Avi Dandiya posted a live video in which he played a recording of a call purportedly involving India's home minister, the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and an unidentified woman.

The trio could be heard talking about arousing nationalist sentiment ahead of India's general election, with the BJP president allegedly saying in Hindi: "We agree that for election, we need a war".

Within 24 hours, one of Facebook Inc's fact-checking partners in India, BOOM, exposed Dandiya's video as fake.

By the time Facebook took down the post, it had received more than 2.5 million views and 150,000 shares. There is no Indian law that specifically targets fake news, but police in New Delhi registered a case of forgery against Dandiya and an official said investigations were ongoing.

Still, Reuters last week found at least four edited copies of Dandiya's videos on Facebook with about 36,000 views.

The videos underline how social media companies are struggling with fake news ahead of India's general election, which starts on April 11.

On Monday, Facebook said it had deleted 1,126 accounts, groups and pages in India and Pakistan for "inauthentic behaviour" and spamming, many linked to India's opposition Congress party.

Facebook's popular messaging app WhatsApp yesterday launched a service for Indians to check the veracity of information.

WhatsApp said in a statement it was working with local startup Proto to classify messages sent to the service by users as true, false, misleading or disputed.

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