Facebook has just taken a major step in its fight against fake news and misinformation in India.
Today (Oct. 26), senior BBC journalist Trushar Barot announced he will soon be taking up a role, based out of Facebook’s New Delhi office, to lead and develop the social media giant’s Integrity Initiatives for India. “This will mean leading their work on combating fake news and digital misinformation, developing digital literacy training programmes, working with startups and most importantly, coming up with big ideas that will bring significant positive impact in the digital development of a country with over a billion people,” he tweeted.
This announcement comes a day after the Indian government reportedly ramped up pressure on technology companies to check the spread of rumours and misinformation on their platforms, and to put a system in place to share information with law enforcement.
Barot has spent the past 17 years working for the BBC in various roles. Since July 2017, he has worked in New Delhi as the BBC’s digital launch editor in Indian languages, including its expansion of digital news services in Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, and Punjabi. Before that, he worked for more than 3 years for the BBC World Service Group in London, leading the development and rollout of new mobile services for the news organisation.
Facebook is bringing Barot on board a month after it announced it was hiring Ajit Mohan, CEO of the video-streaming platform Hotstar, as India’s managing director. Just as Mohan’s expertise in video is expected to help the social media platform expand video products in India, Barot’s expertise in digital content for Indian languages will likely be an asset as Facebook focuses more on regional Indian languages.
Both sets of skills will be crucial in tackling the fake news problem in India, where misinformation and inflammatory messages are often spread through videos or doctored images, and often in regional languages. This type of messaging often doesn’t get picked up by algorithms trained on written English alone.
The major test of Facebook’s efforts will come in the following months, as political parties campaign for India’s 2019 general election, expected in May.
Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.