In 2018, Amit Shah had famously boasted that his party workers are capable of delivering any message to the public. He recounted how an IT Cell worker had once pushed a fake news about Akhilesh Yadav slapping his father Mulayam Singh, which went viral
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar has warned against fake news. Speaking at a virtual event on Thursday he said it was more dangerous than paid news. “Paid news is much milder than what fake news is. Fake news has a very potent power of disturbing the peace. The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to public life,” Javadekar said at a virtual event organised by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a not-for-profit industry body.
No one would disagree what the minister is saying. He has admitted that those who are into the business of fake news are a threat to public life. They are manipulating public opinion and exploiting social media. This is what people have been pleading with the government for so long. It’s good that he has finally spelt out the menace.
It would have been better if Javadekar had also identified the culprits. Everyone knows who they are. He also knows. The prime source of lies and propaganda in India is none other than his own Bharatiya Janata Party.
In 2018, Home Minister Amit Shah, who then was BJP president, had famously boasted that his party workers are capable of delivering any message to the public. The BJP’s WhatsApp group has over 32 lakh subscribers. He recounted how an IT cell worker had once pushed a fake news about Akhilesh Yadav slapping his father Mulayam Singh, which went viral.
What a great thing it would have been if Javadekar had named Amit Shah as the prime offender. He should also have named Amit Malviya-led IT Cell that his party runs. Both Malviya and his IT Cell have become synonymous with fake news. Just read the following observation published in February this year in Alt News, an online portal dedicated to busting fake news:
“Alt News has been monitoring his (Amit malviya’s) social media feeds for a while and has found that he repeatedly uses misinformation in an attempt to discredit individuals, communities, opposition parties, leaders and social movements. Since he is the official head of the BJP’s online propaganda machine, the misinformation promoted by Malviya has a dangerous ripple effect. His false claims are echoed by party members and supporters of the BJP, giving rise to large-scale misinformation campaigns.”
It would be wrong to say that the BJP or its IT Cell is the only source of fake news. There are other players as well. But compared to BJP, they are pigmies. Congress Party and some other political parties are also indulging in this deplorable activity. But their area of operation is politics. They mainly target the BJP or Prime Minister Modi and his policies. The IT Cell, on the other hand, has no limit. Its troll army virtually goes after anyone and everyone it considers opposed to Modi government or Hindutva ideology. In the process it has created a vertical divide in society.
The wave of lynching and cow vigilantism that the nation witnessed soon after Modi took over in 2014 are blamed on social media manipulated by various outfits of the Sangh parivar. Many of those who indulged in spreading lies through Facebook and WhatsApp were found to be followed by none other than the prime minister himself.
The ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown is another sad example of how the IT Cell behaved during this health crisis. An April 4 article by Jyoti Yadav in The Print is headlined “Indians are fighting against coronavirus and BJP IT cell is fighting against Indians”. The article reads: “In the midst of the Narendra Modi government’s war-like preparations to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the BJP’s IT cell continues to engage in spreading hate and misinformation. It seems that the IT cell has vowed to become an enemy of its own party and the country. Its troll armies have taken to the Covid-19 pandemic as if a Lok Sabha election was going on and they have to make sure the BJP wins, by hook or by crook.”
During nation-wide protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act that the government enacted in December 2019, the IT Cell did everything to defame the protestors and portrayed them as criminals. Alt News and Newslaundry did a joint investigation into disinformation campaign run by Amit Malviya and found that all his allegations against the protestors, including women of Shaheen Bagh sit-in, were baseless.
Ironically, Javadekar’s statement has come at a time when his party is facing the heat following a discloser that Facebook has allegedly been ignoring hate-mongering by BJP leaders. A report in the Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed current and former FB officials, alleges a top Facebook India official opposed taking down hate speech posts by a BJP MLA over worries it would damage the company’s business prospects in India.