Fact checking and fake news are on the radar of the Election Commission of India. The EC has listed multiple ways it plans to handle the use of social media by political parties. In the detailed guidelines, the EC lists: “The platforms will deploy appropriate fact checkers which scan the fake news, abuse etc.”
The EC has also unveiled an Android app, cVIGIL, which can be used to model election code violations such as limit on expenses. “cVIGIL provide time-stamped evidentiary proof of model code of conduct/ Expenditure Violation, having live photo/video with auto location data.”
But will these steps be enough?
This is the first time the Election Commission has taken cognisance of social media. The guidelines for social media are a pilot project.
Considering the enormity of the challenge as it is no longer the candidates who have to be kept under watch but millions of users who may or may not know what they are doing, says Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu who is working with both Google and Facebook for fighting the fake news ecosystem in video, text and image form.
“We get calls and messages. Sometimes, people tag us when they think the information is fake and we check it and rate it. If the information is rated as ‘False’, ‘Mixture’ of accurate and inaccurate information or ‘False Headline’ where the heading is inaccurate, then the distribution gets reduced. In addition, a rating information pops up to alert the reader,” says Mr. Dubbudu.
Incidentally, this is the first time, that the EC is working with Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) to keep the integrity of the election process.
“With the input of Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp..., IAMAI has already responded and confirmed its eagerness to cooperate with the ECI to uphold the integrity and legality of the political campaigns conducted on the platforms of the intermediaries.”
IAMAI did not respond to mails about the steps it is taking to help the ECI.
But there are fears that campaigning and spread of fake news will go under the radar with the nature of WhatsApp which is a closed group encrypted chat system as the ECI directives are tilted towards reporting the violations.