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Rabid BJP-Backers Flood Social Media With Fake News

Facebook ropes in third-party fact-checker to counter menace.

Ahead of the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leaving no stone unturned to beat the ruling Congress government in the state. While various agencies, including the government, are finding it difficult to curb the menace of fake news, both national parties have shared an array of reports, lacking in authenticity, on social media. These reports clearly fall under the category of “false news”. The BJP, particularly, seems to be two steps ahead in the game. A Facebook page favouring the party recently ended up sharing a pre-poll update which was out-and-out fake. 

How Facebook page peddles fake news

1. A Facebook page called ‘Karnataka Election Updates’ has been uploading infographics quoting a ‘CDS’ survey with results about how each assembly constituency in Karnataka is likely to vote, showing the BJP ahead of the ruling dispensation in almost every constituency. The updates related to the survey are being routinely updated since April 29, according to fact-checking website BOOM Live. 

2. After inquiring further, BOOM found that no survey named CDS exists. However, Lokniti-CSDS is conducting a detailed pre-poll survey of each assembly constituency in the state, the results of which are yet to be published. “We are working on a survey detailing pre-poll tendencies of each assembly constituency but are yet to finish the same. We have not yet collated all the results and will do so in the coming days,” Gayatri, the Lokniti-CSDS programme coordinator, said. Another Lokniti-CSDS employee told BOOM that the surveyors had gone to about 56 constituencies but the results were not part of the final survey and were being used to only gauge the average mood of the state.

3. The Karnataka Election Updates page often shares reports from recently created websites like BengaluruTimes.covoiceofbengaluru.com and expressbangalore.com which show Siddaramiah-led Congres government in poor light. These websites unsurprisingly have an identical format.

4. The page has more than 7,000 followers, and has started getting a fair amount of traction on Facebook and WhatsApp. 

How website posted fake pre-poll survey 

1. A website called bangalore-herald.com created a stir by posting a pre-poll survey favouring the saffron party. The survey, which turned out to be fake suggests, “the party (BJP) is expected to get 95 to 100 seats while the expected runner-up, the Congress, is expected to win 80 to 85 seats. JD(S) remains a distant third with around 40 seats while the remaining seats to be won by other candidates.” 

2. The website also quotes the “survey” to suggest that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is expected to lose both the seats he is contesting from—Chamundeshwari and Badami—by a margin of more than 5 per cent.

3. On the vote share, the survey says that “BJP will be the biggest gainer with a jump of 15 per cent…” compared to previous state elections. It claims that the BJP is expected to get around 35 per cent vote share. The Congress apparently is expected to get 36 per cent vote share.

4. According to bangalore-herald.com, ‘C-Force’ conducted the pre-poll survey in the southern state through April 20-30. The website also claims that surveyors spoke to 12486 voters from 120 assembly constituencies covering all regions using a structured questionnaire. The survey claims to have a margin of error of 2 percentage point at 95 per cent confidence level.

5.Interestingly, there is no polling agency called C-Force. The name of this fake agency resembles the Gurugram-based C-Fore which released its third round of pre-poll surveys on April 30, BOOM Live reported. C-Fore survey predicts that the Congress is likely to form a government on its own and is expected to win anywhere between 118 and 128 seats while the BJP will be a distant second, winning 63-73 seats.

6. Premchand Palety, the Chief Executive of C-Fore, told BOOM that his company has nothing to do with the “C-Force survey”, whose “results” were shared by bangalore-herald.com.

The steps Facebook is taking to curb fake news

1. The social media website has roped in BOOM as a third-party fact-checker for the upcoming Karnataka elections. 

2. “The right-wing narrative is so strong and so rabid, and they flood social media with it, that it becomes more difficult to find out what’s happening on other side,” BOOM managing editor Jency Jacob was quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.

3. BOOM tracks Facebook’s dashboard and identifies stories that they think require a closer look. If the story is found to be fake, BOOM writes an article saying so, and Facebook carries that piece in its ‘Related Articles’ section. This was the deal between BOOM and Facebook.

4. According to the Mumbai Mirror report, Facebook will also send individual users and page administrators notifications if they have shared, or try to share, a story determined to be fake.

5. On the issue of fake news, a Facebook notification mentioned, “Pages and domains that repeatedly share false news will also see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetise and advertise removed. This helps curb the spread of financially-motivated false news.”

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