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How to make social media hate and fake news free: Five ideas from a think tank | India News

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NEW DELHI: Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and You Tube have acquired an unprecedented reach due to cheap data and proliferation of smart phones and more and more Indians especially the youth are consuming their content.
Yet these tech-giants have also ensured that the lines between credible sources of information and those with a dubious record are getting increasingly blurred.
In its report on ‘Politics of Disinformation’, the Future of India Foundation founded by former Mckinsey consultant Ruchi Gupta and activist Saurabh Sharma, has found that social media platforms have adopted design choices which have instead led to a proliferation and mainstreaming of misinformation while allowing themselves to be weaponized by powerful vested interests for political and commercial benefit.
“The consequent free flow of organised misinformation (disinformation), hate and targeted intimidation has led to real world harm and degradation of democracy in India: anti-minority hate has been mainstreamed and legitimised; communities have become divided and polarised; sowed confusion
in the minds of the people; made it difficult to establish a shared foundation of truth; and led to political alienation,” according to Gupta.
Here are five ways that the think tank has recommended to help cleanse social media of lot of misinformation that currently prevails there:
1) Ensure Transparency
According to the report, one of the biggest hurdles in stemming the flow of misinformation is lack of transparency by social media platforms. Even
when platforms have disclosed certain kinds of information (e.g., the Ad Library by Facebook), the data is often not presented in a manner which facilitates easy analysis and prompt response. Data transparency bills in the pipeline, notably in the United States.
India must enact its own comprehensive transparency law to ensure parity, think tank has suggested.
2)Regulator answerable to Parliament
Giving control over the public discourse to a handful of individuals heading technology companies lacks both transparency and democratic legitimacy. Equally importantly, this approach has shown itself to be highly inefficient: platforms have shown themselves unable to work together to evolve a coherent framework to stop misinformation. At the same time, bringing governance of speech under state purview is fraught with risks to free speech and democratic dissent. A way forward could be to constitute a statutory regulator under Parliamentary oversight. The regulator would be answerable to the
Parliament and not the executive, the think tank report has suggested.
3) Label content producers instead of individual posts
Platforms can provide supplementary information by directly labeling the source of information on trustworthiness instead of placing labels on individual pieces of content. Norms can be devised to identify such handles and/or groups. Under this proposal, users who repeatedly post borderline content, or lift original content, or post content fact-checked to be false by independent third-party fact checkers and/or other reputation and credibility related
research will be labeled as ‘Low Credibility Source’ in addition to the content itself being labeled as false.
4) Remove designs that incentivise extreme content
Platforms incentivise extreme content, much of which is likely to be disinformation in two ways: through amplification algorithms, which are predicated on engagement instead of quality thus privileging borderline content and the signaling of high engagement as a driver of importance of a piece of content. Platforms can make two immediate improvements in this regard: hide engagement numbers on content and eliminate trending topics. Trends have been increasingly hijacked by organized entities acting in coordinated manner and are no longer an indicator of popular issues animating the public.
5) Focus on digital literacy
According to the report, digital literacy as a way to reduce misinformation works only if done at scale. Social media
platforms are at the forefront of distribution but have limited digital literacy initiatives. This needs increased impetus with a target for outreach linked
to the platform’s user base.

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