Officials in India have urged tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Twitter to take stronger measures to combat the spread of fake news
According to a top executive at Google’s Jigsaw subsidiary, the company is launching a new anti-misinformation project in India aimed at preventing misleading information that has been blamed for inciting violence
The initiative will make use of “prebunking” videos, which will be distributed on the company’s YouTube platform and other social media sites to counter false claims before they become widespread.
Google’s efforts to combat misinformation contrast with rival Twitter, which is reducing its trust and safety teams despite new owner Elon Musk‘s promise that it will not become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Google recently conducted an experiment in Europe in which it attempted to counter anti-refugee narratives online. The experiment in India will be larger in scope because it will deal with multiple local languages — Bengali, Hindi, and Marathi — and will cover different parts of a country with a population of over a billion people.
“This presented an opportunity to research prebunking in a non-western, global south market,” Beth Goldman, Jigsaw’s head of research and development, explained. Misinformation spreads quickly in India, as it does in other countries, primarily through social media, causing political and religious tensions.
Officials in India have urged tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Twitter to take stronger measures to combat the spread of fake news. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has used “extraordinary powers” to block YouTube channels, as well as some Twitter and Facebook accounts, that are allegedly spreading harmful misinformation.
Inflammatory messages have also spread through Meta’s messaging service Whatsapp, which has over 200 million Indian users. After false claims about child abductors led to mass beatings of more than a dozen people, some of whom died, the company limited the number of times a message could be forwarded in 2018.
Jigsaw has produced five videos in three languages in collaboration with the Alfred Landecker Foundation, a pro-democracy organization based in Germany, the philanthropic investment firm Omidya Network India, and a number of smaller regional partners.
Following the viewing of the videos, viewers will be asked to complete a brief multiple-choice questionnaire designed to assess what they have learned about misinformation. According to the company’s recent research on the subject, viewers who watched such videos were 5% more likely to identify misinformation. Goldman added that the Indian initiative will focus on issues that are important to the country.
“By forewarning people and empowering them to recognize and refute misleading arguments, they gain resilience to being misled in the future.” The findings are expected to be released in the summer of 2023.