India holds final phase of parliamentary voting as fake news continues to influence voters

India holds final phase of parliamentary voting as fake news continues to influence voters

Today, Indians vote in 59 constituencies of 8 states, including the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, in the seventh

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Photo: Reuters

Today, Indians vote in 59 constituencies of 8 states, including the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, in the seventh and final phase of parliamentary elections.

In addition to the normal gargantuan operation of Indian elections—there are some 900 million voters—authorities now face the additional risk of social media influence on voting. In a nation where 430 million people own a smartphone and 560 million are online—making India the world’s biggest market for Facebook and WhatsApp—the scale is huge.

Facebook has labelled political advertisements and partnered with Indian fact-checkers, while WhatsApp is banning accounts that spread fake news. However, both major parties—the ruling BJP and opposition Congress and their proxies—have attempted to get around those controls.

Given the sheer scale, this election is anticipated to be a litmus test for the growing importance of social media companies and their attempts to control misinformation in elections. Expect these companies to implement further controls in future elections around the world as they have done in this election, especially in light of commitments signed as a result of the Christchurch terrorist attack. However, political parties will likely continue to test the limit which may ultimately result in further regulations in future.

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