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“The Spread of Misinformation in India” by Pratik Sinha

Tanisha Kohli

Pratik Sinha is one of the founders of Alt News, a Non- Profit Fact-checking Website. He has been working to combat fake news on social media as well as through digital and electronic media. Jindal Global University organized a webinar on the topic “The Spread of Misinformation in India” on 22nd September 2020.

Taking inspiration from a recently released documentary named “The Social Dilemma”, the webinar focused on the point on how Netizens are being fed with misinformation by various platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and search engines like Google, etc. This misinformation leads to the manipulation of people by various groups especially political parties for campaign purposes that have been coming out through various investigative reports.

In the webinar, Pratik Sinha said that misinformation works on the biases of consumers. The people who are creating misinformation know what these biases are, what are the facts of the consumers, and how they will act on them? “It is a completely organized Industry.” He also adds, “Platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter will give more than 10,000 ways of consuming information. As we talk about Social Dilemmas, these platforms are primed to keep the users engaged.”

While responding to a question on ‘Does fake news travels faster than real news?’ Sinha said, “it is important to distinguish between propaganda and misinformation. I believe a lot of us are consuming propaganda. I don’t know how much, but it depends on where our interest lies. Social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram enable echo chambers and we as humans also have this natural tendency of creating these echo chambers, facilitating the spread of fake news.”

He also informed the attendees about the various fact-checking websites and platforms such as images.google.com and Yandex.com that are used for reverse image search. There is another tool on google named Invid Fact Detector which allows users to break the video into individual frames. He also mentioned about a fact-checking course “Poynter.com” that is available for free.

Ranjeev Joseph, a student from Law school shared his thoughts on the webinar and said, “In this post-truth world where data is manipulated and selectively targeted for someone’s vested interests. It becomes a prerogative of journalists to stay true to the very ethos of Democracy, collect, compile, and gather true information for the benefit of a healthy atmosphere. More power to journalism.”

Another attendee Tushar Verma, a second-year journalism student said, “I liked the topic where he explained how they fact check images, videos, statements, etc. It made me realize that it’s not as technical as I thought. It's more on the side of motivation. If one is motivated to fact check, it can be done easily.”

(Edited by Manu Kaushal and Sarabjot Singh)