Curbing fake, hate content on riots: Social media companies


Social media platforms said they are working to quell fake news and misinformation around the Delhi riots and that over time they have built new features to clearly highlight credible content.

This comes after home ministry officials in a meeting on Tuesday told platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube to report and flag hate speech and objectionable content that may lead to law and order problems.

Twitter said it effectively tackled abusive content and coordinated disinformation linked to the Delhi riots and prevented certain hashtags that were inciting hate based on religious affiliation from trending, while YouTube said it quickly removes videos violating its policies and complies with legal requests from authorities.

At the meeting, home ministry officials took up matters like provocative content by non-verified accounts, which have been a key source of misinformation particularly on Twitter, people familiar with the matter said.

Several instances of accounts peddling propaganda without any checks were shared with social media platforms and they were urged to reduce response time in removing hateful content or face legal action, sources said. Delhi Police has registered 26 FIRs against various social media accounts for “provocative content”.

“We swiftly took down content and accounts that were in violation of our rules, including dehumanising language and material that could trigger offline harm,” a Twitter spokesperson said in response to ET’s queries.

“Twitter is the only uniquely open service where inaccurate content was also debunked in real time by people, including law enforcement, trusted journalists and news media organisations which helped protect the public…our teams were and continue to take action judiciously, consistently and impartially on any content that violates our policies,” the person said.

Facebook and WhatsApp did not respond to emails seeking comments as of press time Friday.

Pratik Sinha, founder of fact checking website Alt News, said misinformation is to do with all platforms. “There has been an enormous amount of misinformation across platforms; it has been unrelenting,” he said. “The claims these platforms make of quelling misinformation… none of them are actually effective.”

A social media executive, however, said the platforms have been working on the issue. “It is always nice to blame social media platforms,” the person said on condition of anonymity. “But are conference halls and their owners held accountable if someone makes a defamatory speech in a hotel? Users must also act responsibly.”

A YouTube spokesperson said over the last year, the company has worked to ensure that credible content showed up when people search for news-related topics. “We’ve changed our search and discovery algorithms to surface credible content, built new features that clearly label and prominently surface news sources on our homepage and search pages, and introduced information panels to help give users more sources where they can fact check information for themselves,” the person said.