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Prof. Tariq Mansoor is presently serving as the Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Previously he has also served as Principal, J.N. Medical College, Chief Medical Superintendent, J.N. Medical College Hospital and Chairman, Department of Surgery. He is also the member of Medical Council of India since March 2015 for a period of four years. He is product of the first batch of prestigious Our Lady of Fatima Higher Secondary School, Aligarh. During his school days he has served as House Captain as well as School Captain. He did his MBBS and MS in General Surgery from Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, AMU, Aligarh. A surgeon by profession with special interest in Breast and Thyroid Diseases, Prof. Tariq Mansoor has 33 years of Teaching and 35 years of Clinical experience. He has 90 publications to his credit and has guided 49 Postgraduate Medical Students for their Thesis as Supervisor / Co-Supervisor

Meet the Fake News busters fighting the tide of online Myths, Rumours

Meet the Fake News busters fighting the tide of online Myths, Rumours

NEW DELHI: As grief and outrage over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old crescendoed last week, a wrenching video of the supposed victim singing “her last song” lit up phones across the country.

But it was a hoax. The clip was nearly a year old and the girl someone entirely different, a lie that was discovered by a team of fact checkers who debunk the “fake news” shared by millions of people every day.

It is a herculean task exposing fake news before it spreads like wildfire in the country, where an estimated quarter of a billion people use Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

Small teams of myth busters must compete with huge volumes of content being shared in a multitude of languages, in many cases by first-time internet users unskilled in discerning fact from fiction.

Independent fact checkers know the stakes are especially high in the country, where fake news has quickly ignited violence.

Erroneous rumours of a salt shortage sparked panic across four states in November, triggering stampedes outside marketplaces that left one woman dead and countless injured.

Angry mobs in eastern part of the country beat seven men to death in May after they were accused of child trafficking in unverified messages circulated on social media.

Velocity creates veracity

Govindraj Ethiraj, founder and editor of Boom, a fact-checking website, said his team encountered at least a dozen instances of fake news a day “that can cause serious harm”.

“India is perhaps the only country where there are such violent outcomes of fake news,” he told AFP.

“The way it manifests itself in India, I don’t think it happens in any other country. We are worst affected by this menace.”

Boom, which revealed the viral clip of the alleged child rape victim to be a fake, has just six people on its staff and is one of a handful of independent fact-checking teams in India.

Facebook this week announced a partnership with Boom to monitor state polls in Karnataka, its first such initiative in India, as the social media giant faces global scrutiny over its platform being misused to meddle in elections.

India is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing internet markets, with just over a third of its 1.25 billion people connected to the web.

Cheap data packages and inexpensive smartphones are bringing millions of new users online who are often unable to detect real news from fake, said Pratik Sinha, founder of “anti-propaganda site” AltNews.

“Suddenly people, especially from rural areas, are inundated with information and are unable to distinguish what is real from what is not,” he told AFP.

“They tend to believe whatever is sent to them.”

Many of the hoaxes debunked by AltNews have incendiary potential: false allegations of backward classes going on a destructive rampage, or Hindu women being taunted by Muslims in a hotbed state.

Ethiraj said this content often swirled “in corners of the country that we don’t even know about”, going viral in one of India’s myriad regional languages.

Once it takes off, it can be hard to stop: “Velocity creates veracity. People start believing it,” he said.

It was a problem that “lawmakers and the police are finding difficult to deal with”, Ethiraj added.

Photoshopped pictures

Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month reversed an order to punish journalists found guilty of reporting fake news after an outcry over press freedom.

Some government ministers from the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have fallen foul of fake news.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted about an Oscar-winning music director supporting a BJP curb on cow slaughter, later conceding the information “seems unverified”.

Cow slaughter is a hot-button issue as the majority of the people consider the animal sacred.

A photo of PM Modi sweeping a floor went viral ahead of the 2014 election he won with a thumping mandate. It was later revealed the image was doctored.

A year later, an image of PM Modi surveying flood damage was pulled from a government website after being exposed as photoshopped.

Pankaj Jain, founder of, said the rise of fake news presented challenges ahead of India’s 2019 general election and it was important to present the truth to the people.

“They need to be shown the truth in the way in which they consume (news) most like regional language channels and newspapers,” he said.


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from The Siasat Daily

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