MisDisMal-Information Edition 9

This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com

What is this?This newsletter aims to track information disorder largely from an Indian perspective. It will also look at some global campaigns and research
What this is not?A fact-check newsletter. There are organisations like Altnews, Boomlive etc who already do some great work. It may feature some of their fact-checks periodically

Welcome to Edition #9of MisDisMal-Information

Of Bandemics, Information Pollution and Keeping up with the COVID-actions

Keeping up with the COVID-actions… promised by platforms

Through June, Rohan Seth and I worked on a project trying to analyse what steps platforms had undertaken to address Information Disorder related to COVID-19. Around the time we were getting ready to publish it, we were given a gift by a certain yoga guru – in the form of a cure to COVID-19. Now, you obviously know what happened to that story – so I won’t get into this supposed cure. But it did give us an opportunity to see how platforms responded compared to their own stated measures. How did it go? Not so well.

We selected platforms largely based on how commonly used/popular they were in India. There 4 broad categories of responses

  • Funding fact-checking, journalism efforts.
  • UI changes to direct users to authoritative sources of information.
  • Changes to information flows to contain the spread to unverified/misleading/false/incorect…(you get the point) information.
  • Updates to various policies (typically content guidelines and sections that dealt with mis/disinformation)

We broke this down further to 14 things they did and plotted them on a table.

Now, let’s get back to the curious case of how they handled coronil. Even with an obvious search for something like coronil (with or without a #), there was no labelling of posts as unverified, no surfacing official sources of information, no removal of misleading trends etc. For the details, take a look at the write-up we published on ThePrint.

Staying the COVID-19 information disorder, Shruti Menon writes for BBC about its human costs in India. It is a wide ranging piece which covers religious tensions across COVID-19, the north-east Delhi riots, CAA protests as well as the impact on meat traders.

Also, read Harini Calamur’s take on platforms’ responsibilities when it comes to hate speech and information disorder.

In India, the issue of fake news and hate speech are often interlinked. Most often, vested interests put out fake news in the hope of fuelling hate

Dovetailing with this, is an analysis of technology related questions during the budget session by Kanupriya Grover and Arpit Gupta, as per which:

Out of the 18 questions related to online content regulation, most pertained to steps taken by the government to regulate social media platforms for curbing fake news and misinformation, use of social media platforms in election campaigns and to remove unlawful content. There were also questions about a possible regulatory framework for over-the-top (“OTT”) video streaming platforms.

International ministries of truth

Brazil’s senate passed a disinformation law that has some dangerous implications for speech. It will now go to the lower house, and then to Jair Bolsanaro (who has claimed that we veto it in its present form)

Kyrgyztan passed an anti-disinformation law too. In rather strange circumstances (late night vote, expedited procedure). It still presidential assent but it has some worrying aspects, such as:

“Crucially, the law will oblige the “owners” of websites and accounts on online platforms – including, it appears, individual citizens operating their own accounts – “to immediately restrict or prohibit access” to such information, as well as to moderate how other internet users engage the content. This stipulation extends to sharing or re-posting information from websites or other users that they themselves did not author.”

“To ensure compliance, the law will also require every website or account owner to make their surname and initials public, as well as an email address available for receiving “legally significant messages”.”

In Singapore, POFMA …

[Read the full edition here]