Fake news trends amid Lok Sabha elections  

A public meeting of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in Banka, Bihar

A public meeting of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in Banka, Bihar (Image credit X @TejashiYadav)

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Lok Sabha Poll: Hands off people’s pulses, fake finds favour to whizz political mood

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, April 19: India begins celebrations of democracy with the people queuing up amid heat and humidity from today. The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections will sweep through 21 States and Union Territories. The consensus view among pundits about the poll is that it’s too early to sniff the winds.

Early this month, the police had arrested the owner of a YouTube channel in Kerala for allegedly spreading fake news on EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). Yesterday, Kerala was back in the news with a report claiming error in EVMs during tests.

The Kerala EVM error report found mention in the Supreme Court hearing yesterday also. The bench, in fact, was quoted by reports that judges sought examination of the Kerala EVM error report.

Later in the day, the Election Commission trashed the claims made in the EVM error report. The EC told the Supreme Court that the EVM error report was fake. The report claimed that extra votes went to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during mock tests.

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The Supreme Court wrapped up hearing on petitions for 100 per cent matching of the VVPATs of the EVMs yesterday. But by the time the EC called the Kerala report fake, the social media and even the mainstream media had gone to town to stoke claims that the machines could indeed be manipulated.

All through the day on Thursday, the enthusiasts spun the wheels of fake news fast on social media about an internal survey of a leading pollster. This house of opinion and exit polls has called several elections correctly in recent years. A leading anchor even danced with sweets on a live broadcast to celebrate the accuracy of this pollster.

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The internal report making viral rounds claimed that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be restricted to 243-254 Lok Sabha seats. The report, which claimed to be the final opinion survey, also stated that the BJP would end up with just 208-219 Lok Sabha seats. Also, the NDA would poll 44 per cent votes with the Opposition block, INDIA (Indian National Developmental and Inclusive Alliance) “polling 43 per cent vote share to bag a similar number of seats”.

The head of the pollster’s house has privately said that the “report is fake”.

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Fake news in elections is not uncommon. Occasionally, the media also partakes in the business of fake news. The line of accuracy is thin in political reportage.

There indeed appears an avalanche of fake news. The power of WhatsApp forwards is unchecked. The Centre only recently through a notification constituted a fake news busting unit within the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Fake News Check Unit, however, has been functioning for more than five years. The outcome appears to make the least impact in drying the flood of viral posts.

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