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India's election overshadowed by the rise of online misinformation | TechCrunch

Apr 20, 2024 -
As India begins the world's largest election, the country faces a significant problem with misinformation, particularly on social media platforms. The World Economic Forum has identified India, which has over 830 million internet users and the largest user base for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as being at high risk for misinformation and disinformation. The situation is further complicated by AI-generated deepfakes. Despite the Indian government updating its IT intermediary rules in 2022 to require social media companies to remove misleading content within 72 hours of being reported, critics argue that enforcement is weak and tech platforms are not doing enough to combat the issue.

Misinformation is not only a threat to election fairness but can also incite violence and increase hatred towards minorities. Fact-checking in India is particularly challenging due to the country's vast diversity in language and culture. In the lead-up to the election, fake news and doctored videos proliferated on social media. Despite Google and Meta announcing measures to limit misleading content during the elections, no significant product-related changes have been made. Civil society organizations in India are urging the election commission to hold political candidates and social media platforms accountable for any misuse.

Key takeaways:

  • India, the world's largest democracy, is grappling with a significant misinformation problem during its election period, exacerbated by its vast internet user base and the rise of AI-generated deepfakes.
  • Despite the Indian government's efforts to combat misinformation, including updated IT intermediary rules, critics argue that enforcement is weak and major tech companies are not doing enough to address the issue.
  • Fact-checking efforts are complicated by India's linguistic and cultural diversity, and there has been a noticeable increase in the deliberate creation of misinformation to polarize society.
  • The scale and sophistication of misinformation and disinformation have drastically increased over the last five years, with factors such as increased internet penetration, the availability of technologies to manipulate audiovisual messages, low media literacy, and loss of credibility in mainstream media contributing to the problem.
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