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Twitter’s Efforts to Curb Fake News During Elections May Be Too Late in Coming

Twitter has rolled out a tool that lets users and watchdogs report misleading content pertaining to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but is is too little, too late.

Shouvik Das | News18.com

Updated:April 25, 2019, 8:55 PM IST
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Twitter’s Efforts to Curb Fake News During Elections May Be Too Late in Coming
Twitter has rolled out a tool that lets users and watchdogs report misleading content pertaining to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but is is too little, too late.
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After being announced yesterday, Twitter’s proprietary tool to curb misinformation during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India went live today. In essence, if you happen to spot a tweet that is spreading false political information on Twitter, you can select ‘Report tweet’ from a drop-down menu, and select an option that specifically states, ‘Tweet is misleading about voting’.

This will take users to a second screen, from where users can pick if the information is spreading fake news about incidents related to voting or the process of voting, or may involve any other aspect of the elections. From here, users can choose to add their own comments regarding how the reported tweet violates the fair usage norms in relation to the elections, and submit it for Twitter to examine.

The tool, which went live today and is set to be introduce across the European Union from April 29, is in line with how social media giants have taken up increasing amounts of responsibility regarding the aspects of misinformation, fake news and propaganda on its platform. However, Twitter’s steps to regulate its platform in light of the elections come after three phases of the general elections have already been completed, and 303 seats (out of the total 543 seats) have already been voted for.

This raises a relevant question about Twitter’s latest reporting tool, and how relevant it is. A large part of the elections are over already, and even though a significant part of the seats are yet to be voted for, any form of mishandling of data, fake news or propaganda would have already played its part during the ongoing elections. As a result, the regulatory consequences may not have the desired effect that Twitter would hope it does, at least not to the scale that was required from the onset.

Regulation of information on social media platforms has been one of the most-discussed aspects during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. For instance, Google announced in February that it is taking the initiative of hosting training sessions nationwide for journalists to better understand the ethics of information and reporting. Facebook, meanwhile, announced its partnership with trusted media houses in March as it planned to take on fake news. WhatsApp, meanwhile, initiated a research programme earlier this month that aims to better understand fake news and curtail it.

Importantly, all major platforms took steps ahead of the elections in a bid to restrict the spread of fake news pertaining to the election. It remains to be seen how social media eventually impacts the outcome of the present general elections. Phase four of the elections commence April 29 onward, with 240 seats left to vote.
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