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Essay: Curbing Fake News in India: WhatsApp, Facebook and Government Take Action

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,471 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: Facebook essays

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4.Measures already taken to curb fake news in India:


    4.1 WhatsApp’s response to fake news:

WhatsApp COO notified the government of the steps taken to counter fake news –

  Top officials of WhatsApp including COO Matthew Idema met IT Secretary and other Indian government officials to talk about the steps the company has taken to counter the circulation of fake messages on those forums that have even triggered mob lynching incidents. According to government sources, Idema met with IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney to discuss the steps the Facebook owned company is taking to address false news. They added that the payment service proposed by the company, which is pending for government approval, also came up for discussion. When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: "Over the past week, WhatsApp met with a wide range of digital literacy experts, business leaders and government representatives to talk about India's growing connected society and the importance private end-to-end encryption of messages". The spokesman added that the "challenge of misinformation requires action from government, civil society and technology companies" and that the company would collaborate with various stakeholders to counter these problems. WhatsApp had previously stated that it had released new security features, including a tag that clearly identifies forwarded messages and controls for group conversations in recent weeks. WhatsApp has already received two notices from the government of India, asking it to present better and effective solutions to curb the threat of false news beyond just labeling forward. He also warned the company that the means used to spread rumors can be treated as "abettors" and can face legal consequences if they continue to be "silent spectators". WhatsApp had responded to the first notification, but has not yet sent a response to the second. The company had expressed its inability to avoid spam because it cannot see the content of encrypted private messages. Blocking, therefore, can only be done based on user reports, he said. WhatsApp is also working with more than half a dozen partners in India to design a digital literacy program to educate users on how to detect fake news and stay safe on the popular messaging platform. He has also published full-page ads in major newspapers, first in the series of his user awareness campaign, and offers "easy advice" to decide if the information received is really true. WhatsApp officials have also committed to the Electoral Commission (EC) and assured them that they will take several steps before the polls to avoid the misuse of their platform, and bring to India their model of verification of false news ' Verificado' that has been used in other markets such as Brazil and Mexico.

Illustration 4.1 WhatsApp announces rewards to curb Violence-Inducing fake news

4.2 Facebook’s response to fake news:

Facebook said it was implementing measures to stop the abuse of the social media platform during the elections. The company said in a statement that it was taking some steps that it hoped would resolve the problem of false news and misinformation.

The new measures to combat Facebook's fake news come at a time when the company is struggling with claims that it helps data mining companies to target users of social networks. Recently, Facebook has been in the news for allegedly leaking data from more than 50 million users to a quiz application, which then sold this data to Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has also faced increasing pressure on how it could not take note of the Russians who interfere in the US elections using social media.

Recently, the company announced four important steps that will ensure that social networks are not used to influence elections in a negative way. According to Rob Leathern, director of project management at Facebook, these steps are:

1) Administrators of the Facebook page should send their IDs issued by the government and provide a physical email address for verification.

2) Facebook will confirm each address by sending a letter with a unique access code that can only be used by a  specific Facebook account.

3) Advertisers must also disclose which candidate, organization or company they represent.

4) Once authorized, the advertisers related to the elections will be clearly marked in the Facebook and Instagram feeds of the towns. This is similar to the disclosure that people see today for political ads on television in India, said a Facebook spokesperson. The policy label will also include a list of the person, company or organization that paid for the advertisement with a paid for by disclosure.

Guy Rosen, Vice President of product management,  Facebook said "Facebook has identified four main areas of security in the elections the company is working on. It is about combating foreign interference, eliminating false accounts, increasing the transparency of ads and reduce the spread of fake news. "

"Now our work also includes a new research tool that we can implement in the lead-up to the elections." Instead of waiting for reports from our community, we now proactively search for types of activities related to potentially harmful choices, such as pages of foreign origin that is distributing non-authentic civic content, "added Samidh Chakrabarti, Product Manager at Facebook. "This year, for example, we are doubling the number of people working on general security issues from 10,000 to 20,000, and that includes content reviewers, systems engineers and security experts," Chakrabarti added.

Illustration 4.2 Facebook launches disputed flag to curb fake news

   4.3 Government’s response to fake news:

The government is considering steps to control the spread of fake news and provocative and exasperating content on the Internet, especially on social media platforms, which are believed to incite incidents such as lynchings in many parts of the country. It is exploring all possible technology interventions that could help law enforcement agencies identify the source of such content and the policy options to make popular social network applications more accountable for controlling fake news and socially sensitive advertising on their platforms.

A senior government official said: "We are exploring all possible measures to control hate messages. There is a general consensus among the ministries of stakeholders that ensuring public order and preventing the loss of lives and property is of the utmost importance. While it is the task of the government to ensure that technological developments are not left behind, it is also their duty to maintain law and order. "

Blocking applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, etc. in particular areas where incidents of social tensions / violent incidents are reported during specific periods is an option. Government officials have held several meetings with WhatsApp, Facebook and others about ways to address fake news on their platforms. "What may act as an impediment for antisocial elements to disseminate such content or for companies to take additional measures to stop it is also being discussed," said the aforementioned official.

The telecommunications department (DoT) has requested telecommunications operators, Internet service providers, etc. information about the blocking of applications such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram, among others, under Section 69A of the IT Act. The communication was sent after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the law enforcement agencies raised the problem of blocking certain mobile applications.

A DoT source said that it is not about blocking applications, but about the greater problem of false provocative content. MeitY informed DoT that blocking such applications in emergency situations is difficult, since they work through multiple IP addresses and in different protocols, hence there is a need for a good reasonable solution to protect national security. When MeitY's secretary, Ajay Sawhney, asked DoT about that communication, he told reporters: "There is no specific reference." But when there is a problem, we examine it in accordance with the Information Technology (IT) Act The IT Act imposes all kinds of obligations on platforms and intermediaries. So based on that we do what we can. "

In the MeitY conversations with WhatsApp to identify the source of the fake messages, he said the company has taken several steps. MeitY has also requested other social media applications to make sure it is possible to mark concerns within its platforms. Interior Minister Rajiv Gauba met with representatives of various social networking platforms to review the steps they took to prevent the misuse of their sites. Officials said on Thursday that he asked them to verify the spread of rumors and messages that incite riots, cyber crimes and other activities that could be detrimental to national security. From May 2017 to June 2017, more than 20 people were lynched based on false publications or rumors that floated on various social networking platforms. Mr. Gauba asked the representatives to appoint the India-based grievance redressal officers and to develop a monitoring mechanism for preventive actions with a time limit and other actions to eliminate questionable contents. Social media platforms were also asked to establish a system to quickly share the information sought by law enforcement agencies for investigation purposes.

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