<unlike-us> How Volunteers for India's Ruling Party Are Using WhatsApp to Fuel Fake News Ahead of Elections

José María Mateos chema at rinzewind.org
Sun Jan 27 18:42:45 CET 2019


>From the article:

Ahead of national elections in April and May, India’s political parties 
are pouring money into creating hundreds of thousands of WhatsApp group 
chats to spread political messages and memes. Prime Minister Narendra 
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has drawn up plans to have 
three WhatsApp groups for each of India’s 927,533 polling booths, 
according to reports. With each group containing a maximum of 256 
members, that number of group chats could theoretically reach more than 
700 million people out of India’s population of 1.3 billion.

In reality, the number is likely to be smaller because many people are 
in multiple group chats, and most chats have fewer than 256 members. But 
the strategy reflects a fundamental change in Indian society: at the 
time of the last national polls in 2014, just 21% of Indians owned a 
smartphone; by 2019, that figure is thought to have nearly doubled to 
39%. And for most of them, WhatsApp is the social media app of choice — 
by one count, more than 90% of smartphone users have it installed. In 
recognition of that shift, the BJP’s social media chief declared 2019 
the year of India’s first “WhatsApp elections.”

But according to researchers, as well as screenshots of group chats from 
as recently as January seen by TIME, these WhatsApp group chats 
frequently contain and disseminate false information and hateful 
rhetoric, much of which comes from forwarded messages. Experts say the 
Hindu nationalist BJP is fueling this trend, although opposition parties 
are using the same tactics.


José María (Chema) Mateos || https://rinzewind.org/

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