Suggested reading: In India, debunking fake news and running into the authorities

by Suhasini Raj

The two men were unlikely candidates to work in the news business.

Neither had a background in journalism, but both were alarmed with the surge of misinformation in India that followed the rise of Narendra Modi as the Hindu nationalist prime minister. To take on this problem, the men, both engineers, started Alt News in 2017.

Since then, Alt News has become a leading fact checker in India, debunking rumors on social media that often spiral onto television news, including those about child-kidnapping gangs and that Muslims were spreading Covid. Calling out hate speech has also become part of the site’s work as it has taken aim at viral posts that inflame sectarian tensions and that sometimes spur violent mobs to attack innocent people.

Led by its founders, Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha, Alt News has criticized supporters and officials of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party for their statements targeting minorities. … (continue at The New York Times)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

One thought on “Suggested reading: In India, debunking fake news and running into the authorities

  1. Thanks, that was a very interesting read.
    I won’t go on about the problems. It is obviously a large threat, both from the lunatic left and the rabid right.

    I know from the behaviour of my family and friends how easily urban myths take hold. There is a fascination with the unusual, extreme or deviant which predisposes us to believe such accounts.. Our evolutionary history has primed us to search intently for threats. High alertness to threats is in general a better survival strategy than complacency, ignorance or indifference. Modern media magnifies this, creating hyper awareness. It is a kind of societal PTSD.

    But how to deal with it is the question. I am forever referring my family and friends to Snopes which has made me something of a killjoy. The alternative to fact checking organisations are news suppression filters in the social/news media. This is a dangerous solution since it gives great power to institutional biases. This is the last thing we need. Silencing unwanted voices is always the worst possible solution since we are put in thrall to the biases and prejudices of the silencers. And it magnifies suspicions.

    A culture of questioning and fact checking is the only workable solution. Biases, lies, distortions and misrepresentations must be answered by clear and persuasive reasoning based on the best facts available. But getting there is the hard part. The work of Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha of Alt News shows that it can be done. I applaud their work.

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