How to Tackle the Corona Fake News Virus? Surprisingly, UP Police Shows Us the Way


How to Tackle the Corona Fake News Virus? Surprisingly, UP Police Shows Us the Way

Ever since the country was put under a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a spike in the number of rumours on social media. The situation has now gotten so bad that today even the Uttar Pradesh police — which last made headlines for the way it dealt with students during the CAA protests — has decided to start a war on fake news.

Senior officers from across the state have been taking to social media, calling out fake news headlines, and forcing clarifications from various media outlets. Under the hashtag “UPPAgainstFakeNews”, the officers are making appeals not to believe in rumours, a bulk of which revolve around supposed attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat event.

Most of these advisories and fact-check comments were posted just days after the Uttar Pradesh government announced a crackdown on misinformation and fake news, during a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The UP police has also started a live fake news tracker on Twitter, “UP Police Fact Check”, to “cross-check any news related to the UP police”.

Three days ago, the Firozabad police showed us what this looks like in action, when its Twitter handle refuted a media report that claimed a medical team escorting members of the Tablighi Jamaat was pelted with stones.

In response to the now-deleted original Tweet, put out by Zee News, the police’s official handle accused the media outlet of “spreading false and misleading news” and asked them to delete the tweet.

Two days later, the Noida police joined in on the action, calling out news agency ANI for another misleading headline. The original tweet put out by the agency had claimed that five people who had come into contact with Tablighi Jamaat attendees had been quarantined. The Noida police, much to the surprise of everyone on the internet, however disagreed, and categorically replied that there was “no mention” of Tablighi Jamaat in the report.

While no action has been taken against any of the named channels for the alleged misinformation, the police did manage to get a — some would say, rather important* — clarification from one of the publications.

The Saharanpur police, too, put out a note on social media, in response to a report that claimed members of the Tablighi Jamaat had “asked for non-vegetarian food” and “defecated in the open” inside a quarantine facility in the district.

First reported by Amar Ujala, a screenshot of the report made it to the internet, where it was spread widely before it was eventually called “wrong and untrue” by the Saharanpur police’s official handle.

Meanwhile, the UP police isn’t alone in this fight. The Karnataka Police announced on Wednesday that it had launched a website to fact-check headlines related to Covid-19. According to the DGP, the website aims to counter those who are disturbing the peace by sharing old videos and photos, with the intention of creating hatred.

So as we enter another possible 21-day lockdown, these few incidents are a great reminder — and even the police will agree — that there’s more than one virus threatening this country.