We must consider the implications [troll farms] have on the largest democracy in the world and how it should navigate digitalisation, the session stated
The speakers also warned that neither the government nor the social media platforms (Meta and Twitter) are taking right steps to address the issue
The comment comes at a time when the Indian government is looking to update the IT Rules to curb misinformation
Several European parliament members, IT experts, and officials have flagged India’s troll farm race on social media. They have cautioned that social media users in India are unguarded against the manipulation of digital information by troll armies, creating political and ideological propaganda.
For the uninitiated, a troll farm is a group of internet trolls that are either paid by certain groups or formed on their own accord to interfere with political opinions and decision-making.
Besides India, governments of several countries such as China, Brazil, Russia and the USA, among others, have been accused of building troll farms. Most of these bots operate on Meta platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with barrages of hashtags and propaganda.
Since these troll farms have much power, countries across the world have been trying to find solutions to reduce the autonomy of trollers.
In line with the agenda, the European Union (EU) held a session titled ‘Taking Stock of India’s Information Manipulation Ecosystem’. The session was hosted by think-tank Stichting The London Story and several members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and experts at the UK’s Home Office attended the event.
The session was moderated by European Parliament Member Markéta Gregorová and streamed online as the EU looks to build closer collaborations with India.
One of the panellists, Saikat Chatterjee, the chief data analyst of the London Story, stated that experts are investigating the capacity of India’s information manipulation ecosystem (that spreads disinformation and hate speech) and its potential impact on democracies around the world.
The session also pointed out that digitisation in India comes at the cost of information manipulation for first-time internet users, who are more prone to falling prey to scams and lies.
“We must consider the implications this has and how the largest democracy in the world should navigate digitalisation,” Gregorová said.
Other panellists included Meta whistleblower Sophie Zhang, Archis Chowdhury (a senior correspondent at BOOM) and doctoral researcher (at King’s College London) Vignesh Karthik and public policy expert Vihang Jumle.
“India is undergoing a troll farm arms race,” Zhang warned, stating that neither the government nor the social media platforms including former employer Meta and Elon Musk’s Twitter are taking the right steps to address the issue.
The comment comes at a time when the Indian government is looking to update the IT Rules to curb misinformation. The move entails that the government would regulate social media platforms, who in turn will have to curb the spread of misinformation.
But with several allegations that the government itself has a troll army (dubbed IT cells), it becomes difficult for social media platforms to separate the grain from the chaff.