As outlined in this chapter, the false information ecosystem in India is composed of and influenced by a complex and multifaceted set of factors and actors. The introduction and mass adoption of internet platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook in the country has enabled misinformation and disinformation to be spread rapidly at scale. However, the issue of false information existed long before these platforms were introduced, and as a result, remedies adopted by these platforms make up only one part of the solution. Going forward, technology companies, users, policymakers, news outlets, fact-checking organisations and civil society should consider the following recommendations:
- 1 Public and private entities should allocate more funding and support to independent fact-checking organisations. This will ensure these organisations can operate at scale and enable them to provide services in additional languages. As a result, these organisations will be able to adopt a more localised approach to curbing false information and will also be able to operate with greater impact.
- 2 Technology companies, government entities and organisations providing fact-checking services and media and digital literacy workshops need to invest more in publicising the existence of fact-checking services and promoting participation in digital and media literacy workshops. In order to achieve greater scale and impact, these entities should also consider working in concert with one another to host such workshops across the country.
- 3 Any legislative approach to curbing the spread of false information should be centred on respecting and protecting fundamental human rights, especially freedom of expression and privacy. Going forward, the government should refrain from mandating that companies undermine their encrypted messaging services. Governments should also refrain from using legislation to clamp down on freedom of expression. In particular, governments should not impose time-bound take down requirements or any related types of restrictions on internet platforms, as these incentivise overbroad censorship. In addition, the government should introduce stronger data privacy protections, as this will lay the groundwork tor efforts to prevent political parties and other entities from developing lists of users that can then be targeted with content. Further, the government should refrain from instituting internet shutdowns as a means to curb the spread of false information, as this infringes on the freedom of expression of the individuals impacted and curbs the free flow of vital information.
- 4 Technology companies should introduce educational materials and features that address the problems of misinformation and disinformation directly into their applications. This will generate greater user exposure and awareness. Examples of such features include video tutorials, labels or warnings related to unverified or potentially misleading content and prompts that provide easy access to content verification services. In addition, when internet platforms introduce new user controls around factors such as privacy, they should develop educational materials, including in-app features, to ensure users understand how to use these settings and how these settings impact their experience on the platform.
- 5 Internet platforms should provide greater transparency and accountability around the scope and scale of their efforts to curb false information. In particular, technolog)' companies such as WhatsApp, Faccbook, Twitter and Google should disclose clear and granular information around how much content and how many accounts they remove in their attempts to curb the spread of false information. In addition, companies that engage in content moderation, in particular companies that deploy automated tools for content moderation, should ensure that users have a robust appeals process in order to remedy any erroneous content removals or account suspensions.
- 6 Traditional news outlets and institutions should invest more resources into training journalists in this new false information environment. Journalists should especially be able to develop strong fact-checking skills. As previously mentioned, these outlets and individuals have also been complicit in spreading false information in India. This has further decreased public trust in them.