In the first 24 hours of its operations, the Press Information Bureau’s recently set up fact-checking unit received complaints regarding health and insurance scams, political hoaxes and bank scams, the Economic Times reported. However, such complaints are “outside its scope of verification and response” as per a senior government official, the report said.
PIB set up a fact-checking unit on November 29 to verify “suspicious” news involving central government, ministries, departments, and schemes, urging the public to send across any information that they wanted verified. People can email at email@example.com with a snapshot or URL of “dubious material” to get it verified. According to ET, the fact-checking team at PIB is using 12 free software tools such as InVid to send out instant posts on social media to counter fake news that it receives. The unit will consist of PIB officials and contractual employees who will monitor platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, as per another ET report.
Here’s an example of the type of fake news that the fact-checking team aims to counter:
Number doing rounds of Social Media as Nirbhaya Number for Mumbai, has been discontinued.
— PIB India (@PIB_India) November 29, 2019
Despite PIB’s message that it would only deal with news about “Central Govt/Dept/Min./Scheme”, the fact-check team received a number of complaints related to bank frauds and conspiracy theories about the government-formation in Maharashtra, according to the report. Apart from that, it also received pictures and WhatsApp forwards in “bad taste”, the report continued without specifying the types of pictures and forwards it received.
The report also said that PIB is looking at 3 YouTube channels which spread fake news about “how the government will handle economy or offer subsidies”, and clarified that the fact check team isn’t looking at news critical of the government, but only at “fake news spread against the government”. We don’t know which are these 3 YouTube channels in question. The unit doesn’t have the resources to “get into politics” or fact check unscientific claims and solve problems of cyber crimes, the report added.