/2020 was most volatile, chaotic for misinformation in India, says Facebook fact checker

2020 was most volatile, chaotic for misinformation in India, says Facebook fact checker

Last year was a most volatile and chaotic one for misinformation in India, a Facebook fact-checking partner for India said on Thursday.

Rahul Namboori, co-founder of Fact Crescendo, pointed to some highly charged events that kept fact-checkers busy in 2020.

He said the year started with protests against the government’s decision to amend the Citizenship Act and create a national register of citizens, followed by the Delhi riots, Covid-19 pandemic, China’s intrusion into Indian territory, a Bollywood star’s suicide and finally with farmer protests against the new agriculture laws.

“When we speak of India, in terms of misinformation, this was the most volatile and chaotic year. I would take some time speaking about India because a lot happened,” he said at a press briefing by Facebook.

Fact Crescendo is among eight fact-checkers that Facebook has engaged in India, making it the country with the second most number of third-party fact checkers globally after the United States.

The other partners are India Today Group, Vishvas News (Jagran), Factly, Newsmobile, BOOM Live, AFP and Quint who fact-check in 11 Indian languages and English.

Namboori also spoke of Covid-19 specific misinformation that took over Indian social media last year.

They could broadly be categorised into five themes: understanding of the virus, home remedies to cure it, lockdown rules, conspiracy theories of its origins and finally communal spin to its spread in India, he said.

“There was a communal spin to the disease. In India, Covid-19 found a religion because one community was called a super spreader of the disease. There were a lot of communal claims that surfaced on social media,” he said, referring to a Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi, which was termed by many as a super-spreader event.

Between March and October, 12 million pieces of Covid-19 misinformation content were removed from the platform globally, he said.

During the briefing, Alice Budisatrijo from Facebook’s Product Policy team shared a three-point strategy to address misinformation – reduce, remove and inform.

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Tech-Economic Times