Hyper-nationalism behind India’s fake news menace: Report

Hyper-nationalism behind India’s fake news menace: Report

  • A study by BBC Research shows that nationalism is the main driving force behind the advent of fake news in India.
  • Their analysis also highlights how the narrative of fake news is usually an attempt to bring the ‘right version’ of the story to light rather than actually verify the facts.
  • A Network analysis map of how fake news spreads shows an overlap between accounts that publish fake news and the support networks of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Fake news and misinformation continue to be menace in India. Now, a study by BBC Research has revealed a number of these incidents have been in an effort to bolster India’s national identity.

The study found that facts often take a backseat when nationalistic tendencies of ordinary citizens kick in. Propagating false news is all the more prevalent due to the inherent distrust in mainstream media outlets. So, when a story praises India but contradicts what’s ordinarily being said, it’s perceived as the ‘right version’ of the story.

Moreover, this ‘right version’ of the story is then spread through messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger without actually verifying the story from its source.

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The more disturbing revelation was the fact that there’s an overlap of accounts that publish fake news on Twitter and the support networks of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

The narratives

The conditions necessary for spreading fake news include blurring the lines between all news and propagating mistrust towards official news media. The prevalence of digital media makes that even easier since there’s a higher frequency of news consumption.

BBC’s research found that there were four main narratives that make fake news go viral — “Hindu power and superiority,” “preservation and revival,” “progress and national pride as well as the personality and prowess of Modi.”

A network analysis map showed that Twitter handles that were pushing fake news forward were in a ‘pro-BJP’ cluster rather than the ‘anti-BJP’ cluster.

The advent of fake news in India is not just about people being misinformed, but how this information is then used to propagate acts of violence. Lynchings and other acts of violence are enforced with a sense of vigilante justice and a duty to protect your loved ones. At least 32 people have lost their lives over incidents that have been instigated by rumours according to another report by the BBC.

BBC’s report took 16,000 Twitter accounts and 3,000 Facebook pages into consideration in order to determine how fake news spreads in India. As per their research, there was a ‘strong and coherent’ promotion of right-wing messages.