ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics of Disinformation

Limitations of the Current Approaches and Possible Paths Forward

Even while proposing a statutory regulator for social media platforms under parliamentary oversight and structural reforms in platform design and treatment, one must not lose sight of the essentially political character of the disinformation problem that cannot be resolved through regulation and technological fixes alone.

A little over a decade ago, social media platforms were at the heart of democratisation of speech and seemingly democracy itself. Users could directly engage with events and discourses around the world to feel like citizens of a borderless world. Charismatic leaders deployed innovative social media campaigns to organise at the grassroots and acquire power. Social movements leveraged these online social tools to engineer political and social revolutions and dethrone dictators. There was much to celebrate and social media platforms basked in the glory. However, the story of social media platforms as harbingers of democracy and pro-people movements has soured.

Public opinion is the currency of democracy, changing and installing regimes in line with the prevailing majority public opinion. However, increasingly, political and corporate interests are undermining the basic common ground of facts tohijack public opinion and amass power and profits. In a symbiotic relationship between television news and politics, “free speech” is being used not as a mode of self-expression or dialogue but to delegitimise, silence and marginalise a section of the society through the organised dissemination of misinformation, hate and bigotry. Social media platforms are then used in a coordinated manner to amplify and mainstream these manufactured narratives of hate and misinformation. Platforms have been complicit in their own weaponisation by adopting design choices, which have led to a proliferation and mainstreaming of misinformation while obscuring the distinction between vetted information and propaganda because this provides a fertile source of growth, engagement, and profits. The consequent free flow of organised misinforma­tion (disinformation), hate and targeted intimidation has led to real-world harm and degradation of democracy in India and around the world: anti-minority hate has been mainstreamed and legitimised; communities have become divided and polarised; sowed confusion in the minds of the people; made it difficult to establish a shared foundation of truth; and led to political alienation.

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Updated On : 10th Jul, 2022
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