Indian Election 2019: Fake News and Hate Speech – How Data Journalists respond
India elected a new parliament: The voting began on 11 April, the final ballot was cast on 19 May with results out on 23 May. The General Elections were the world's biggest democratic elections: 900 Million Indians were eligible to vote. Ahead of the election, India was becoming a breeding ground for the spread of fake and false news. Furthermore, a growing number of online hate speeches threatens free and open public debate.
Our speaker and panelist was Prachi Salve. She is a Senior Policy Analyst and program manager with IndiaSpend, India's first non-profit data journalism initiative. She also works with IndiaSpend’s project Factchecker, India's first dedicated fact checking initiative. Prachi Salve explained how the information flow on social media works in India: Fake news start in WhatsApp groups mostly and then spread on Twitter and Facebook. With over 200 million monthly active users India is WhatsApp’s biggest market worldwide. Prachi Salve spoke about the positive effects of social media. For example farmers are using WhatsApp groups to change information and helping each other. But as well Prachi Salve spoke about threats like cases of lynching following the spread of rumours primarily related to child abduction via WhatsApp messages. Furthermore, with the national elections ahead political groups are using fake news to influence voters' opinion. As well she talked about different fact checking projects by IndiaSpend like for example “Hat Crime Watch”. With that tool IndiaSpend is collecting data on crime motivated by religious hatred. With “Modi’s Report Card” the non-profit organization checked and evaluated main government programs in the run up to the 2019 General Election.
We would like to thank the Indo-German Media Network for the great and enriching collaboration. The discussion was moderated by Sonja Ernst. Sonja is a freelance journalist and editor working for various media. She is based in Cologne. In 2016 she was a fellow of the Robert Bosch foundation's program "Media Ambassador India-Germany" with the weekly magazine Outlook. She is chairwoman of the Indo-German Media Network.
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