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Influence operationsCurbing fake news

By Munish Sharma

Published 9 August 2018

Falsified information, in the form of provoking and doctored content, can travel over these platforms unmonitored. Well-crafted content is potent enough for opinion engineering. The problem is more worrisome for mature economies, which are likely to consume more convincing fake news content than real correct information by 2022, as per a Gartner research. As the interest in fake news and other illicit content grows, their implications for society and the individual in turn are grim. In the quest of finding an immediate solution to this, social media giants are experimenting with Artificial Intelligence (AI), which for decades has been used to curb spam emails.

India is a burgeoning market for social media platforms and messaging services, with close to half a billion Internet users on mobile platforms — the second largest online population in the world. The growth rates for media access on smartphones are astonishing. Equally disturbing however is the increasing instances of misleading and maliciously false online content. Social media and messaging services, which are essentially meant to share information, ideas and interests or to facilitate virtual communities interact, participate and communicate, are increasingly being abused to incite communal riots and spread false information.

In India, as of July 1, 2018, fake information-induced mob lynching has claimed 23 lives1 in 18 of such reported incidents.2 The government has taken a stern stand with clear directions to the messaging service providers such as WhatsApp,3 who have reciprocated with assurances of incorporating suitable technology to curb the menace.4 The phenomenon of fake news has wider implications for law and order, safety and security of the citizens, and to the democratic credentials of the country. Fake news, fake social media messages and campaigns have also been used to malign the reputation of organizations as well as to manipulate stock markets, as in the cases such as the ‘Arctic Ready’ hoax targeting Shell in 20125 and The Associated Press twitter account hack in 2013.6