It is still feasible for older, non-government media and public authorities to forge a partnership against misinformation, though it would require careful planning and implementation to retain a measure of independence and autonomy.
Sukumar Muralidharan, Professor, Jindal School of Journalism and Communication (JSJC), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.
India faces an epidemic of fake news and two of the biggest offenders are the country’s two main political parties, the ruling BJP and Congress. This unregulated “wild west” is causing alarm with predictions that unchecked India is headed for aggravated civic unrest.
A two-year long investigation by Delhi-based news portal The Wire explored propaganda techniques in use by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP’s success in recruiting volunteers and generating fake news was well known, but the investigation suggested the party had added a potent recruit to its ranks: Tek Fog, a multi-function app with tremendous power to produce and proliferate misinformation.
The creation of two private sector IT firms, Tek Fog can reportedly influence social media trends by controlling multiple accounts. It could take over WhatsApp accounts that have fallen into disuse and deploy them to spread political messaging.
Tek Fog could also discretely doctor URLs, linking to an authentic news story and then seamlessly transporting a user to a propaganda site. It could spew out torrents of abuse against journalists and public figures, especially those deemed threats to the BJP.
The Wire investigation found Tek Fog could probably override one-time password security sent through cellphones to verify social media accounts. It could also circumvent the Captcha code test, which is put in place to screen out automated bot-like apps.
Details of who owns and controls Tek Fog are unclear. Its purported ability to evade the account security procedures of major social media platforms, has not been plausibly demonstrated.
The Wire investigation has been questioned on other grounds: could the app actually just open and close all of these accounts, removing all residual traces? Is it plausible that a party would invest in an app to manipulate social media trends when it has long accomplished similar results through active human intervention?
Published in: 360info
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