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WhatsApp users in India need to be careful of propagandas ahead

Ever wondered how a messaging app could change political fate in India? The WhatsApp users in India may get astonished to learn that there is more to the messaging apps than interaction. These days it has become a political propaganda tool to porn sharing groups. Anything to everything, moral to immoral and fake to make believe as truth, this one particular app has not only grabbed your time, peace, and attention by making you addicted to it but it has also influenced your thought process and your mindset. It is conditioning you every day against one particular agenda. On the other day, Mumbai’s former senior cop, who is running an NGO now, sent me some literature and videos and asked me to react against one particular community. He said, “Why to resist them? They should be thrown out of our nation and only a particular party can do it”.

This is our nation and our government. I was shocked out of my life, but still, as a good reader and an investigative journalist, I tried finding facts. To my surprise, that post was picked from one fake website which propagates religious riots. If such educated people are falling in a trap to such things, then one can imagine about the common man of this country. What are we achieving out of it? No one knows. Similarly, there are many groups in the name of Dalits, Muslims or this party or that party, ideology and they just create impression and panic among their community people as if India is not safe for them. They too share photoshopped pictures, videos, fake write-ups and much more to make believe their point by endorsing one or the other political party and condemning the rival party. There are thousands of such groups and people are divided into those groups. The acclimatising goes on 24/7.

They just don’t stop there, the same post is circulated on social media by all the participants and from there, it again gets circulated further, this is how we are colluding entire ambiance against our country. Trust me, our country knows how to live with diversity, all those are born on this soil belong to this nation and this nation belongs to them. There is nothing to feel unsecured or threatened. You have both the sides; if some hate you, some are there in bulk to hold you. No matter whosoever rules you, they don’t change your life for sure.

WhatsApp is probably the best example of the vast potential that messaging apps hold. With over millions of active users, it helps them socialise. But the abuse of such apps needs to be monitored. Visual cues, such as photos and graphics portraying Modi as the saviour of the nation, alongside memes mocking the other party candidates were shared on social media and WhatsApp messenger by a team of dedicated Modi supporters, their numbers stretching into the far hundreds thousands. On the other hand, how fake is India’s PM and attacks on PM Modi with videos and pictures too get viral but in comparison the right-wingers are more aggressive. If you remember, there was a photo meant to show a younger, humble Modi sweeping the floors that went viral, and was later debunked as a doctored image of another man. That didn’t matter though for a very long time during and after the elections, the photo had become a symbol of Modi’s modest roots. It continued to be right-winger’s social media warfare not only as effective communication but also contributed to Modi’s win in the elections. However, the reality of their claims got exposed. Four-and-a-half years on and nothing has changed, rather it has become much worst. Just before the third anniversary of the Modi government, a mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand went on a killing spree, triggered by a simple WhatsApp message.

Three innocent men were beaten to death by an angry mob that wrongly believed those men were human traffickers, based on a warning that they received in the messages. The fake news problem in India is very real. In all, seven people lost their lives in two separate incidences in Jharkhand, in a fury that was born on social media and based on falsified information that the killers received over WhatsApp messenger. This fake information on WhatsApp builds fear psychosis among people. A couple of months after the Jharkhand incident, amidst a communal flare-up in the state of West Bengal, a BJP leader, Vijeta Malik, shared a screenshot from a local feature film showing a woman being molested, and tried to pass it as an image of Muslims molesting Hindu women. Vijeta is part of a far-right political movement that is pushing a Hindu supremacist (or Hindutva) chronicle. In fact, the ongoing tension itself was believed to have been a result of an image offensive to the Muslims circulated through Facebook and attributed to a Hindu boy. Vijeta’s one fake circulation created a lot of anxiety among the two communities. She created riot-like situation but no one took action against her. There are many such stories and numerous videos that get circulated on WhatsApp allegedly showing Indian Muslims celebrating the victory of Pakistan. All except one of those videos was genuine; it was from [Indian-administered] Kashmir. All the other videos, and there were multiple ones from around the country, were fake. Even the Rajasthan man butchering Muslim man was hailed high and funds were gathered to support his family and court case, later on, police discovered that he killed a wrong man for his own lust. Having investigated the sources of every single video, each could have led to communal tensions and violent incidents in parts of India. But we the people of the nation have become slaves to smartphone and IT Propaganda University. WhatsApp, which hit 1 billion daily users this summer, has been a breeding ground for misinformation for a long time.

While Facebook and Twitter are highly public spaces where news, photos, and videos generally flow freely, WhatsApp is more classified. This app was actually designed to keep people’s information secure and private, so no one is able to access the contents of people’s messages but now this has become a dangerous tool in people’s hand to propagate all that they want. People are afraid that bad things will happen if they say something wrong on social media. WhatsApp is kind of a safe place for people and they can discuss more conspiracy things. However, while WhatsApp-spread misinformation has become an increasing concern across the world, along with efforts to debunk it, this is somewhat a looming danger. Without facts checking, the users are irresponsibly passing the messages about crime, violence, politics, and communal riots. Now, all Indian political parties have geared up for 2019 Lok Sabha elections by making thousands of groups and communities, and the whoopla has already begun.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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