May 24, 2019

Fake News Is Endangering India’s Election

“NEW DELHI—In the days following a suicide bombing against Indian security forces in Kashmir this year, a message began circulating in WhatsApp groups across the country. It claimed that a leader of the Congress Party, the national opposition, had promised a large sum of money to the attacker’s family, and to free other “terrorists” and “stone pelters” from prison, if the state voted for Congress in upcoming parliamentary elections.

The message was posted to dozens of WhatsApp groups that appeared to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, and seemed aimed at painting the BJP’s main national challenger as being soft on militancy in Kashmir, which remains contested between India and Pakistan, just as the two countries seemed to be on the brink of war.

The claim, however, was fake. No member of Congress, at either a national or a state level, had made any such statement. Yet delivered in the run-up to the election, and having spread with remarkable speed, that message offered a window into a worsening problem here.”

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