BBC launches 'Disinformation Unit' in India to combat misinformation

Media awareness workshops delivered to over 5000 students across India.

Mumbai: BBC News has launched a new ‘Disinformation Unit’ in India to uncover, analyse and report on the spread of fake news. According to a statement, a team of dedicated journalists will focus on highlighting false information, debunking viral social media content and investigating how and why it spreads. The team will provide audiences with useful tips and information on how to spot ‘fake news’ and prevent it from spreading further.

Audiences will also be able to report on any fake news they think should be investigated by messaging the BBC’s Disinformation Unit.

This newly launched unit in India is an extension of the BBC’s continued commitment to combat misinformation and is a part of the BBC Global Disinformation unit, which includes experienced journalists based in Africa and the UK.  

“Disinformation is a global issue that disregards boundaries of languages, platforms, cultures, and age-groups. Unchecked news can affect health, society and democracy," said BBC Disinformation editor Rebecca Skippage. "This new team of dedicated journalists will allow us to shine a light on misleading information and help people decide for themselves what to believe and what to mistrust.”

Simultaneously, a scheme called BBC Young Reporter India has rolled out ‘media awareness workshops’ in schools across India to help young people think critically about the media they consume, recognise facts from fake and pause before sharing potentially misleading and harmful information. The workshops are being delivered in partnership with Internews and DataLeads teams.  

This initiative will deliver training to seven thousand students across hundred schools in India by the end of the year. Over five thousand have already attended the workshops in more than forty-five Indian cities, said the statement.

“The pandemic has shown the appalling damage that misinformation can cause. Fake cures, anti-vax messaging and conspiracy theories have been widely shared, often by people thinking they are doing the right thing as neighbours and friends," stated  BBC Beyond Fake News head Marie Helly. "It is imperative that the next generation become responsible citizens who understand the difference between fact and fake and can think critically about the media they consume.”  

“Trust, accuracy and impartiality are at the heart of the BBC.  I am delighted by the quality of the students and trainers who are working together with the BBC to counter the dangers of misinformation here in India," Helly further said.

The workshops are building a network of young people who can spot disinformation using a BBC fact-checking technique called ‘Real’ and educating the students to think analytically like journalists.

“The workshop actually helped the students to navigate and take the right direction in the digital world. It has been a relevant training session to learn the skill of identifying the authenticity of the news which are at the fingertips of the students in the changed scenario," commented SRS English Medium School (Brahmavar) Karnataka principal Abhilasha S.

"The BBC Young Reporter workshop has been immensely enlightening and enriching for the students. The webinar was impactful enough to generate awareness amongst the students to be discerning users of social media," said Delhi Public School (Nazira) Assam headmistress Meenakshi Duarah. "The students were exposed to a lot of significant things to be kept in mind while using social media. Apart from the students, the teachers who attended the webinar also found it beneficial for the students."

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