NEW DELHI — Facebook’s announcement this week that it has taken down hundreds of pages linked to India’s main opposition Congress party and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party turned the spoltight on the blitz of disinformation being used to influence nearly 900 million voters as social media becomes the primary battleground in the world’s largest general election starting April 11.
Those policing social media content say steps being taken by social media giants to curb fake news are not even scratching the surface of the problem as false posts are shared faster than they can be taken down. The concern in India say cyber experts, is not foreign interference as in the 2016 United States election, but disinformation battles waged by political parties and their supporters.
Spending on creating political messages, memes and videos has soared as political parties hire hundreds of cyber warriors to run their social media cells and motivate tens of thousands of volunteers to target the over 300 million who use Facebook and about 240 million on WhatsApp.
The upcoming Indian election is a no-holds-barred contest as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP fights to stay in power and the Congress Party to return to the center of Indian politics.