EDITORIAL

Can social media tame fake news?

Social Media
Representative image

 

Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are aware of the damage fake news can cause to the election process in India. But none has one simple solution to eliminate the impact that misinformation can have on millions of voters.

After facing flak from the government, social media giants are in a huddle and have devised some tools and launched a few initiatives to fight fake news and political bias, in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.

China-based popular video social networking app TikTok has also reached out to the Election Commission to comply with its instructions and establish an escalation channel, abiding by the model code of conduct.

“We have also informed Election Commission that we will not serve any paid political advertisements on our platforms in India throughout this election period,” ByteDance, which operates social media apps such as TikTok and Helo, said in a statement.

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp intensified its fight against misinformation soon after dozens of lynching incidents in the country last year were linked to rumours spread on its platform.

From launching awareness programmes on dangers of fake news on TV, radio and digital platforms to limiting the number of forwards to five, the messaging platform has introduced several measures.

“We’re pleased that the recent changes we’ve made to limit viral content and educate users is having an impact. This work is never done — there is more that we can and will do,” WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said in a statement this week.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is also banking on a multi-pronged strategy to fight fake news ahead of the elections. From verifying political ads to expanding the third-party fact checkers programme in India and making information labelled as fake less visible on News Feed, the social media giant has taken several measures to reduce the impact of misinformation.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, said recently that the company was establishing a task force comprising “hundreds of people” in the country to prevent bad actors from abusing its platform.
Facebook’s political ad tracking has gone live for India, showing ad spends from the parties and their affiliates.

Micro-blogging site Twitter, which earlier faced accusations of being “slow” in removing “objectionable content” and “political bias” from its platform, has started showing billing details of political ads as its Ads Transparency Center for the country went live this week.

According to Twitter’s Global Vice President of Public Policy, Colin Crowell, Twitter has now put in place a dedicated team for maintaining site integrity and focused on cleaning manipulation networks that might affect the voting process in India.

Would these efforts deter the unofficial troll army of political parties from posting misinformation?

This not even social media players are sure of as, in their own words, there is much more to be done on this front. (IANS)