WhatsaApp | Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg
WhatsaApp | Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg
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In a prelude to his second episode of the balcony series, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on 3 April at 9 am, and urged Indians to come out on their balconies, again. This time, he asked them to light candles or torches for nine minutes “to defeat the despair of coronavirus”. By 11 am, explanations  justifying the logic behind Modi’s announcement had seemingly become common knowledge, courtesy the stalwarts of WhatsApp ‘University’ and their dutiful ‘forwarders’.


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Fake news and NASA 

Calling it a “surgical strike” against coronavirus and explaining how carbon monoxide will cancel the virus must have had Justus von Liebig and Friedrich Wöhler, the researchers responsible for the emergence of organic chemistry as a field of study, turning in their graves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While preliminary research shows that infections like coronavirus may be seasonal and India’s hot summers could help control the outbreak, there is no concrete evidence yet. But don’t tell that to the WhatsApp ‘University’, which has declared — citing NASA no less — that the coronavirus cannot survive high temperatures. It then conjured up an ‘IIT professor’ who declared that if 130 crore candles are lit, the temperature would increase by 9 degrees and by 9:09 pm, the coronavirus will be defeated in a “masterstroke by Modi”.

On 19 March , when PM Modi called upon all Indians to stand on their balconies and clap or bang pots and pans to show support for the doctors and other healthcare workers, similar justifications had emerged. Apparently, vibrations are enough to kill the coronavirus. Fifteen days hence, cases have increased exponentially.

India’s obsession with NASA and IIT is dumbfounding. What part of “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” leads people to believe that it is an appropriate source for information on a virus that got transmitted from animals. Even if I suspend belief for a moment and assume that I should look at space organisations for information on a pandemic, why does John F Kennedy Space Center or our very own Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) never make the cut? As for the IIT, the homegrown institute is a personal favourite of many Indian parents and students, so its popularity in the WhatsApp world whose members readily use its name to lend authenticity to their bizarre claims is no surprise.


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The factory of fake news 

Since Modi came to power in 2014, all his actions — no matter how questionable or simply devoid of reason or logic — have been backed by ‘students’ of the WhatsApp ‘University’, with NASA and IIT being their exclusive sentinels. But what exactly is this WhatsApp University?

Senior NDTV India journalist, and my personal favourite, Ravish Kumar can be credited with coining the name for India’s biggest factory of fake news. The messaging platform, which has nearly 200 million active users, has become one of the primary source of ridiculously bizarre fake news related to everything — election, politics, religion, science, history, mathematics and whatnot. Messages are forwarded without a second thought to every contact on the phone. As long as it sounds true enough, it is good enough.

However, the Facebook-owned app has taken measures to curb the spread of fake news on its platform by limiting the number of forwards and making changes in how people are added to the groups. It has also started blocking numbers that are found to be sharing misinformation.

But these measures seem to be having little impact on the ground, which makes people outrage regularly on social media. But our outrage against fake content shouldn’t just be limited to those that lead to hate and violence. It should also be against all such false content that spread collective ignorance and obscurantism and lead to long-term dumbing down of a nation.

The importance of steps WhatsApp is taking to curb misinformation cannot be underlined enough. But to what extent do they deter the warriors of India’s prestigious WhatsApp University, who proudly stand as the first line of defense for PM Modi? Your guess is as good as mine.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with this and have seen a correlation to it. When ever there is an incident or article that show the government in bad light, I see that within few hours, max 24 hours, I see a equally or totally opposite, full fledged, fully praise worthy news in favor of the government and I cannot seem to confirm the source, of course in Whatsapp. One thing I share to support my claim. I read a article that the passengers that took the flgiht to come back to india had faced some hardships in terms of quality of service, and within a day, I get a message the someone, not sure who it was, didn’t face any hardship and only India could so such thing. I am not getting into full details though. But my point is there is something fishy going on. I am not blaming anybody here, mistakes do happen, accept them and correct them. Don’t cover it up. I am going anonymous here

  2. When Sikhs distributed food amongst the “brave” women of Shaheen Bagh, they were rightly questioned for doing so. Sensible people from the Sikh community itself came forward and advised Sikhs to stay away from the anti-CAA protests.
    Ms. Deol immediately wrote an article expressing solidarity and support for the anti-CAA protestors.
    Less than a month later, a gurudwara was attacked in Kabul by Islamic militants resulting in the death of 25 innocent people.
    This incident should have put some sense into her. Unfortunately, it seems that it did not.

      • Just for conversations sake.. Can you answer one question… What does your comment have to do with what is written in the article? The article is making and argument that we are seeing an alarming trend today… Misinformation is being spread through whatsapp… What does that have to do the author being “sickular” as you call her… Or do you get worked up just because she says that many of the people who are spreading such falsities are people who support modi… If the latter is the case… Can you address that point instead of calling names… You do realize that such responses are usually how children answer back when they have nothing substantial to say… So they resort to calling names…

    • How are ISIS muslims and aunties of Shaheen Bag comparable?

      Are khalistani terrorists as same as Sikhs massacred in Afghanistan??

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