The increasing fake news on Facebook or TikTok is only making the already complex situation worst for the Indian government. Eventually, the government has decided to take serious action against those who are found indulged in spread such misinformation, be it an individual or a platform.
Voyager Infosec which is ad digital analytics firms based out of Delhi happened to identify a pattern of misinformation which was specifically aimed at Muslims in many videos that were being posted on social media platforms.
These videos, in order to justify the defiance of health advisory related to the virus and the outbreak, seemed to be using religious beliefs to manipulate the entire Muslim community. For instance, in one particular video on TikTok, a man was seen claiming he isn’t afraid of the coronavirus outbreak as he is a true Muslim who follows Prophet Mohammed and therefore only fears Allah.
In another such video, a young man was seen throwing away a mask, (the kind that is now being commonly used to take precaution against the outbreak) putting on a religious Muslim cap and then making the gesture of praying.
The government of India has taken note of the increasing popularity of such content and has instructed Facebook and TikTok – the two highly popular social networking platforms in India.
Curb Misinformation: Indian Government Directs TikTok and Facebook
On April 5, according to a government source, after witnessing such content and getting heavily concerned, the IT ministry of India decided to write to the social media giant Facebook and the rising short video platform for teens TikTok.
In the letter sent to these two companies, the Indian IT ministry sternly asked them to remove the users at once who are participating in spreading misinformation during these times. These companies have also been asked to preserve the details of these culprits so that the data can be later shared with the law enforcement when requested for.
“You need to ensure that such rogue messages do not go viral,” said the IT ministry’s letter.
“(Such messages) have the potential for creating panic … this effectively weakens the all-out effort being made by the Indian government for containing the coronavirus,” the letter added.
Uttar Pradesh, the northern state of India also happened to raise concerns related to social media posts which were contributing to fake news and misinformation. On Tuesday, it was mentioned that their cyber cell was in the process of reviewing 54 cases of fake news on platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and Twitter however no further information was given out.
Avinash Kumar Awasthi who is a senior state official told news officials that they will definitely be taking action apart from further sending over the details to the Indian government from their end.
Facebook and TikTok’s Efforts To Kill Fake News Amid The Outbreak
Facebook in a statement said that they are aggressively working towards stopping any and every misinformation and harmful content from spreading on their social media platforms. The company also said that they are committed to removing any misinformation related to the COVID-19 outbreak that could lead to physical harm.
There are over 310 million Facebook users in India and the impact of such fake news or misinformation could be really devastating.
TikTok, on the other hand, said that they are actively pursuing this issue whilst working with the Indian government to support their efforts to fight misinformation. The company also mentioned they are trying to constantly provide credible information on their platform related to the COVID-19 outbreak. TikTok has got 119 million users in India. The influence of TikTok content on its users could be well understood by the fact that TikTok users in India spent over 5.5 billion hours on the platform in 2019.
The misinformation that has risen amid the outbreak of COVID-19 has been rightly termed by the World Health Organisation aka WHO as an ‘infodemic’. Globally, users of the social media platform Facebook, which is now actively working together with WHO, are now being barred to post misleading information about the pandemic which includes expert guidance denials and fake treatment guidance.