This Article is From Sep 15, 2018

"Lot Of Misinformation In India Spreads On WhatsApp": US Expert

US digital disinformation expert said that in India, mob attacks have taken place due to pictures and videos that misrepresent and create problems between religious groups

'Lot Of Misinformation In India Spreads On WhatsApp': US Expert

A universal fact checker is yet to be developed, the US expert highlighted. (Representational)


Media professionals must rely on varied sources to prevent circulation of wrong information, a US digital disinformation expert said on Friday.

"I don't use the term fake news anymore because it has become politicised. It is used to address anything you don't like or don't agree with. I would (rather) talk about the false information that is seeping in," Geysha Gonzalez, associate director for the Eurasia centre at the Atlantic Council, said from Delhi while connecting with students via video chat in Kolkata.

Defining disinformation, misinformation and fake news, Geysha Gonzalez explained the Indian scenario.

"The more common in India and other countries is misinformation. It is the unintentional false information. This can be anything from rumours to gossip to inaccurate reporting that gets corrected. Here there is no intent."

Ms Gonzalez said that in India mob lynching incidents have taken place due to pictures and videos that misrepresent and create problems between religious groups. Such images and videos become viral on WhatsApp among community groups and people take them as real.

"I heard that a lot of misinformation here spreads on WhatsApp. It is because most of the people are known and we don't really question them before believing it. Hence, it is a challenge," she said.

Referring to the term 'disinformation' as one using false information with the intent to distort the truth, she said: "In 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine and then lied about it. With this, they actually launched a disinformation campaign."

"However, a universal fact checker is yet to be developed. But some Artificial Intelligence (AI) software is being developed that can track false information and slag it. Now different countries have their own fact checkers in terms of digital tools.

"But in general as journalists, one should find the most (number of) sources for one's information" Ms Geysha remarked.

She recommended government intervention that would keep a check on social media as it has become a primary news source for many.

"Government should invest more in education and should apply some media laws that exist in other traditional media to social media platforms," said Ms Gonzalez.

Sharing some ways to tackle these problems, she said, "In Mexico, for Whatsapp, they put together a group of media outlets that were fact-checking the elections."

Also, they were crowd-sourcing and asking people to let them know if any false information was going around.

When a student asked about the way out, she said: "You must question."