As India saw a second wave of COVID-19 infections in India, several hospitals faced a shortage of oxygen. Amidst this alarming situation, viral posts on social media claimed Delhi and Maharashtra governments to have failed to install oxygen power plants despite receiving funds from the central government from the PM CARES Fund.
A viral claim that COVID-19 is a cover-up for deaths due to radiations from 5G network towers has made a comeback. In 2020 this claim was in circulation around March, in the early stages of the pandemic. This claim was debunked by fact-checking organizations at that time as well.
As India saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, distressing and unrelated images were shared on social media to depict shortage of oxygen and the plight of patients in the country.
Fact-checkers in India have been on guard against misinformation long before the 2021 Legislative Assembly election schedules were announced in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Over the past few months, they have observed a plethora of misinformation coming back in different forms and languages. Some claims, images and videos gain more traction than others and are often ones with communal misinformation and which denigrate political opponents.
The fight against misinformation in India is a challenging one. The size of the country (1.3 billion), the number of people accessing online information (over 600 million internet users), the diversity of languages and issues and the growing political and religious polarization are some of the factors that make the task of addressing misinformation an uphill one. Independent fact-checkers in India have been diligently addressing this challenge despite having small teams and limited resources. Ekta, a consortium of six Indian fact-checking groups, hopes to collectively address misinformation.
Six fact-checking groups have come together in India to launch ‘Ekta’, a consortium of Indian fact-checking groups certified by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to share verified information, insights and trends related to the 2021 Legislative Assembly elections in India. Ekta means “unity” in Hindi.
Elections can be a challenging time for fact-checkers, given the potential impact of false and misleading political information on democratic processes.
India has entered a busy election season with polls in four state assembly and one union territory in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry between March and April 2021. Of these, West Bengal will go to polls first and is expected to be the most contentious state election. It is among the handful of states where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the current ruling party at the centre, is not in power. Stakes are high both for the BJP and the current Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal that is fighting to retain its ten year turf.
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