Hoaxes, political posts, conspiracy theories won’t come under ambit of Govt’s Fact-check Unit

NEW DELHI: The government’s online portal meant to check facts and filterreceived mainly complaints of health and insurance scams, bank frauds and political hoaxes in the first 24 hours after it started functioning.

A senior government official said these were “outside its scope of verification and response.”

Thethat comes under the I&B ministry had on Thursday urged people to email snapshots of any “dubious material” they came across on any platform, including social media that can be fact-checked.

The team formed basically to refute “fake news on government schemes and announcements” has put in place a mechanism using 12tools such as InVid and others, to send out instant posts on social media, to counter them.

In the coming days, PIB plans to create a dedicated unit of ten people to do this more systematically. “The unit will not look at political conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific claims,” the official clarified.

The unit received largely videos and emails on fake calls on bank frauds and complaints about conspiracy theories during Maharashtra’s political drama. Tweets spread by people quoting leaders of political parties were reported to the unit. Also reported were memes and pictures andforwards in bad taste. A user even sent a long audio file to the ministry that talks about increase in the number of calls asking for bank account numbers and demanding “immediate action.”

“We are not here to get into politics, very unscientific claims, or solve problems of. We don’t have the resources for it. There are some stories that spread very fast, such as a new helpline attributed to the government or fake news that some currency notes will be demonetised again. As of now, we are just identifying such viral fake news videos,” an official said.

The unit right is looking at fake news spread by threechannels which claim about reaching out to the poor through bank accounts. “There are three Youtube channels that we are looking at right now, mainly because they are repeatedly spreading fake news on how the government will handle economy or offer subsidies. These are misleading,” an official said.

Minister Prakash Javadekar has repeatedly called for combating fake news and that it was more dangerous than paid news.

An official told ET that the PIB will continue with its system of issuing rebuttals to stories that appear in media.

‘We are not looking at negative or critical news against the government. We are only looking at fake news being spread against the government.’