Ahead of elections in the world’s largest democracy, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Monday paid his maiden visit to India where he vowed to check spread of fake news, but said there is no “one fix” solution for the “multi-variable” problem.
Twitter — which counts India among its priority markets — has a large number of politicians in the country on its platform, who engage with residents and extensively use it around elections.
“In a number of conversations, it’s become more important that we scope the problem as tightly as possible because fake news or misinformation as a category is way too big,” he said addressing a townhall at the IIT-Delhi.
He added that if certain content is found to be misleading, it is the company’s job to ensure that such information is picked out and prevented from spreading. “…if the intent (of the content) is to mislead, we need to understand and pick out this information and then it’s our job to ensure it doesn’t spread and our job is to ensure it doesn’t gain the impressions beyond its given reach,” he said.
Dorsey, who met Congress President Rahul Gandhi earlier in the day, pointed out that it was also important to understand the intent and context of the information to address the issue of fake news and misinformation.
“This is a multi-variable problem and there is not going to be one fix, it’s like security. No one can build a perfect lock that no one can break,” he said, adding that like with security, the company will have to stay ahead of those spreading misinformation.
Dorsey said Artificial Intelligence could help build a solution that may be near perfect.
Social media firms have been facing the menace of rumours and fake news floating on their platforms. Organisations like Facebook and WhatsApp have taken a number of steps, including sensitisation programmes among users across the country.
More recently, WhatsApp – which drew flak from the government over circulation of certain fake and sinister messages that incited mob-fury in different parts of the country – has initiated measures to curb the circulation of misinformation on its platform.
Dorsey cited the example of a tweet on its platform, posted ahead of the 2016 Presidential elections in the US, that said voters could register themselves on the short code provided in the tweet. In this case, the number of tweets flagging the said content as fake was 10 times that the original message.
The top executive, who arrived in India last week tweeted: “(my first time here after a lifetime of wanting to experience it). He visited Jaipur and also met the Dalai Lama, called him an “amazing teacher”.
Twitter Monday also launched its ‘#PowerOf18’ initiative aimed at encouraging Indian youth to contribute to public debate and participate in civic engagement in the upcoming election season.
According to a survey conducted by Twitter India, voting rights emerged as the top response when asked what people would consider the power of turning 18 years old.
The research, conducted with over 3,600 respondents aged 18-30 year olds, found 94 per cent respondents indicating that they would vote in the upcoming elections, while 87 per cent said they believed that voting made them a responsible citizen. About 53 per cent said they are voting because they want to make a difference.
The study also pointed towards the increasing importance of social media for information consumption as 69 per cent of Twitter users surveyed said they always stay up to date with political news and events versus 44 per cent of non-Twitter users.