New Delhi: IMA has declared covid vaccine booster to be the direct cause of recent heart attacks reported in Indian youth.” This was among thousands of forwarded messages including, “The UN has declared 15 October, birth date of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s as World Students’ Day” and “Parag Aggarwalformer Twitter CEO, was arrested for possession of child pornography after a tip-off from Elon Musk” that TOI recently busted as fake.
Under theTimes Verified‘ campaign, readers send suspicious messages circulating on social media to this paper on WhatsApp number 9819888887. To verify their credibility, our expert panel – comprising reporters, editors, and representatives from the municipality and government – taps into its network of trustworthy sources.
Launched nationally on November 21 last year, the ‘Times Verified’ initiative aims to break the chain of viral misinformation and disinformation that has been infecting social media groups. Since the launch, TOI’s editorial team has received 1.1 lakh messages.
Over a half of these turned out to be false. Besides misleading sports-related news like “Christiano Ronaldo has announced that he and his partner will not be staying in the same hotel in Saudi Arabia” to “Rohit Sharma was seen admitted in the hospital for donating blood to Rishabh Pant”, the messages included absurdities like “Burning cow ghee produces 1 tonne of fresh oxygen.”
Having grown beyond articles and tweets bearing falsehoods, misinformation is becoming harder to distinguish from fact in the AI era. Recently, a so-called ‘deep fake’ video portraying Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky made it seem as though he was telling citizens to ‘lay down arms’.
Closer home, the fact check department of Press Information Bureau called out six online video channels that were found to be spreading fake news about elections, Supreme Court and parliamentary proceedings to 20 lakh subscribers.
So, the job of our chain-breaker readers who forward dubious messages to TOI – is significant. You can also join chain-breakers like Kerala’s James Thomas and Maharashtra’s Anant H Yadwad and Dr Jayesh Kapadia in the war on misinformation.