Facebook announced on April 1 that it deleted 712 accounts and 390 pages based in India and Pakistan for “inauthentic behavior” in the run-up to India’s general elections, which start on Thursday. In India, misinformation spreads quickly on Facebook and Twitter, but also through WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging app featuring end-to-end encryption. Widely circulated false rumors include assertions that Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi, who is Hindu, is actually Muslim. Supposed images of dead Kashmiri militants, offered as proof that India Air Force strikes have successfully targeted militants in Pakistani Kashmir, turned out to be recycled photos of victims of a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
WhatsApp has launched its own fact-checking service to address the spread of fake news on its networks, and Indian news outlets such as Scroll have included fact-checking of fake news content in their coverage. The BBC has joined in with its international Beyond Fake News project, as reports of false information spreading in Ukraine, Israel, Thailand and elsewhere around election time hit headlines. We will hear from the director of the BBC World Service Group, Jamie Angus, about how fake news operates in elections worldwide and how news organizations and governments are attempting to intervene.