The NDA Government has started countering fake news by setting up a dedicated Fact-Check Unit in the Press Information Bureau (PIB). The Unit verifies the facts and disseminates correct information quickly. The Unit faces acute manpower crunch with no dedicated manpower. Personnel working there are information personnel charged to perform in the Unit in addition to their routine publicity and feedback work. It has, therefore, become truncated and moribund before it could be effective.
The Unit is intended to counter fake news on official policies, programmes and schemes, which becomes insurmountable for the Unit when progenitors of fake news are ruling party Members of Parliament, State legislators, Ministers and ruling party’s IT Cell and its troll army that militate against the constitutional postulates and for that matter against the very idea of India.
Set up in December 2019, PIB Fact Check Unit has presence on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. The Unit has received 771 complaints over WhatsApp, out of which 102 have been countered, and 561 complaints over Gmail, out of which 58 have been countered.
The Unit takes suo motu cognizance of fake news going viral on social media and also complaints from outside. Complaints are received on Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp and hotline number 8799711259. According to the official sources, over 1332 complaints have been received.
The Approach of the Fact Check Unit is half-hearted, half-baked as it cannot simply rebut fake news that come from Sangh Pariwar, which goes against the professed policies of the government. People, therefore, are left with no option but confront the threats that India faces presently. In this context, it would be relevant to recall how the present NDA Government came to power on the plank of good governance, inclusive development and bettering the plight of people.
But the government started practicing Hindutva with Dalits and minorities’ bashings, divisive and communal politics, downplaying women with ever-rising crimes against them, all sorts of bigotry, with the Hindutwa majoritarianism, extreme right and the conspiracy theorists and their most powerful platforms claiming they are “very fine people” among the torch bearing Hindutwa extremists, whipping them into a frenzy.
Fanatical ideas can lead to real, even deadly, harm. We all need to do some soul searching of our own. Government of India needs to address the crises in all its complexity and breadth, hold technology platforms accountable, prosecuting all those who break our laws, make public more intelligence and analysis about domestic rebel rousing and terrorism. So how do we move forward as a country?
What does it say about us that so many are complicit, while those who sound the alarm (dissenters) are dismissed as anti-nationals? The failure to account for the damages that are done to our nation by a government under whose watch violence and hatred are incited through ruling party leaders who fan the flames on captive media and social media platforms that sear conspiracy theories into the minds of Hindutwa supporters.
In such backdrop, countering fake news by Sangh Parivar troll army on social media and lapdog media that goes against the Constitution, the rule of law based system of governance and for that matter all that go against the official policies that are always in the scheme of the Constitution is not workable. However, it showcases the façade of mere presence of the government in the business of countering fake news, nothing more, and nothing less!