IT dept launches ‘Factcheck’ Website to contain fake news

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Telangana Government today launched a dedicated website https://factcheck.telangana.gov.in as part of its efforts to check the spread of fake news, misinformation and rumours in the backdrop of Coronavirus spread and the consequent lockdown.

It may be recalled that the Telangana Government has already invoked the provisions of Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and notified Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 framed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. Disseminating information on social media platforms without ascertaining the facts and obtaining prior clearance from competent authorities is deemed a punishable offence under the said Act and Regulations.

The Supreme Court took serious note of the panic created by fake news leading to the mass movement of migrant labourers directing the Union and State Governments to take effective measures to check the circulation of fake news. 

Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao in his recent media briefings on Coronavirus Lockdown also warned the spreaders of fake news, misinformation and rumours of stern action. CM has ordered the DGP and CS to take stringent measures against the perpetrators.        

Principal Secrtary, ITE&C Dept., Jayesh Ranjan said, “Notwithstanding the penal provisions, it goes without saying that creating awareness on the adverse effects of spreading fake news, misinformation along with providing the authentic sources of information and a platform that verifies the information for authenticity will help address the issue.”

To this effect, ITE&C Dept. of Telangana Government in partnership with Factly Media & Research has developed a dedicated web portal https://factcheck.telangana.gov.in. It is aimed at dispelling the fake news and misinformation campaigns on the social media platforms and to provide facts and context wherever applicable. The website hosts articles on widely circulated posts on Coronavirus on the social media platforms and verifies the claims made therein. Further, citizens can submit a post being circulated on the social media for fact-checking by the ITE&C Dept. 

The ITE&C Dept. will release a bulletin at regular intervals with a listing of posts spreading fake news, misinformation and rumours and give the facts with respect to the information in question. Please find the media bulletin attached to this press note. 

For further information and clarifications, you may write to Director, Digital Media via email at dir_dm@telangana.gov.in.

Listed below are some of the Fake News in circulation on social media and the truth or otherwise behind the claims made therein:

  1. A video is being widely shared on Facebook with the claim that Muslims are spreading coronavirus disease by applying their saliva to plates and spoons. The video in question is on social media at least since July 2018 and so obviously is not related to Coronavirus. Fact-checking the video revealed that Muslims in the video belonged to the ‘Bohra’ community and they were licking the plates and spoons to not waste food.  
  2. A message purportedly issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is being circulated claiming that sharing posts about Coronavirus on social media groups will be considered a punishable offence. No such orders were issued by the Union Home Ministry. However, MHA requested the citizens to verify the authenticity of the messages before sharing.
  3. A couple of photos are being shared on Facebook with a claim that people in Italy are throwing money on the streets as money could not save them from COVID-19. A fact check has found that the photos are old and were taken in Venezuela, not in Italy. People threw the notes on the road as they were of little value due to hyperinflation in Venezuela.
  4. A screenshot of India Today TV news channel is being shared widely on social media with a claim that Modi has announced that the current lockdown has been extended till 4 May 2020. Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor the government made such an announcement. The posted India Today screenshot is a photoshopped version of the original telecast of Modi’s address to the nation on 24 March 2020.
  5. A video showing Muslims sneezing en masse in a Masjid has gone viral on social media. The posts claimed that the Muslims were doing this at Nizamuddin Dargah to spread Coronavirus. A FactCheck found that the video doesn’t relate to Nizamuddin Dargah. Such hyperventilation activity is called ‘Zikr’. The video went viral first in Pakistan in January 2020. Hence the claims of the posts are false.