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A Saga Of Abuse

A Saga Of Abuse

Rural India could be a hotbed of cybercrimes due to lack of education and low digital literacy.

In the small village of Chatrel in Rajasthan, women are upset and angry. Some of them found that their faces had been morphed on nude bodies and the photographs were uploaded on Facebook and Instagram.

Villagers queued up outside the local police station seeking redressal. But what puzzled the victims most was that how their snapshots could be accessed, misused and circulated on social media in that way.

India has the largest number of first-time netizens, a whopping 17.8 crore, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development report titled Measuring the Evolving Digital Economy. A Boston Consulting Group report also states that half of India's Internet population will be from rural areas, places where there is not just rampant illiteracy but also low digital literacy, which could become a hotbed of cybercrimes, including spreading of misinformation and fake news.

For content companies and social media platforms, an easy way to deal with these issues is to set up fact-checking teams. But Ghanshyam Tiwari, National Spokesperson of Samajwadi Party and Founder of Learner.in (a K-12 learning platform), says that the model of fact-checking is broken as social media platforms thrive on clicks and moderating the content will affect their bottom line. "There is a business model for virality, but there is no business model to curb fake news."

Shashank Mohan, a counsel at Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre, says that the measures to counter fake news are few and fragmented right now. So, there is a need to educate everybody on what fake news is and build a culture of questioning and scepticism. Getting political buy-in may also help as political discourses often go a long way in countering the fake news menace, he adds.

According to a study conducted by the New York University, quitting Facebook makes people less informed, but at the same time, it improves their well being and gets them more involved in offline activities such as watching television or socialising with friends and family. It also helps reduce political polarisation. The study involved 2,844 participants, aged 18 or more, who spent at least 15 minutes on social media every day.