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WhatsApp users in India need to be careful of propagandas ahead

Ever wondered how a messaging app could change the political fate in India? WhatsApp users in the country may be astonished to learn that there’s more to messaging apps than being interactive. These days it has become a tool to share political propaganda to pornographic content. Anything to everything, moral to immoral and fake to make belief as truth, this one particular app has not only grabbed your time, peace, and attention by making you addicted to it but it has influenced your thought process and also 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 to me 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 into the trap of 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 outfit, 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 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 later, it again gets forwarded elsewhere. This is how we are colluding entire ambience against our country.

Trust me, our country knows how to live with diversity, all those who are born on this soil belongs to this nation and it belongs to them. There is nothing to feel insecure or threatened about. You have both sides; if some hate you, others 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 parties’ candidates were shared all on social media platforms by a team of dedicated Modi supporters, their numbers stretching to the far hundreds and thousands. On the other hand, how fake is India’s PM, and attacks on Modi with videos and pictures are getting viral, but in comparison right-wingers are more aggressive. If you remember there was a photo meant to show a younger and humble Modi sweeping the floors 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 an effective communication, but also contributed to Modi’s win in the elections. However, the reality of their claims got exposed.

Four years on, nothing has changed rather it has become much worse. 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 who were human traffickers, based on a warning 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 a part of the far-right political movement that is pushing a Hindu supremacist (or Hindutva) chronicle. In fact, ongoing tension itself was believed to have been a result of an image offensive to Muslims circulated through Facebook and attributed to a Hindu boy. Vijeta’s one fake circulation created a lot of anxiety among two communities. She created riot like situation but no one took action against her.

There are many such stories and numerous videos that are getting circulated on WhatsApp, allegedly showing Indian Muslims celebrating the victory of Pakistan. Amongst all, only one of those videos was genuine; it was from [Indian-administered] Kashmir. All the other videos 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 further investigated, the sources of every single video, each could have led to communal tensions and violent incidents in several parts of India. But, we the people of nation have become slaves to smartphone. WhatsApp hit 1 billion daily users this summer, has been a breeding ground for misinformation since a long time.

While, Facebook and Twitter are highly used 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. However, now it has become a dangerous tool in people’s hand to propagate all that they want. People are afraid that something might happen if they post anything wrong on social media. WhatsApp is a kind of safe place for people and they can discuss more conspiracy things. However, spreading of false information on WhatsApp has become an increasing concern across the world, although efforts are being made to debunk it, risk continues to exist. People irresponsibly pass messages about crime, violence, political and communal riots, without checking the facts. Now all Indian political parties are geared up for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, by making thousands of groups and communities and 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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