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Europe meet cautions against digital information manipulation in India

European parliamentarians and officials have cautioned against the capacity of social media users in India to manipulate the digital information environment for political and ideological propaganda.

At a briefing moderated by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Markéta Gregorová streamed online on Tuesday, experts warned that digitalisation in India comes with the challenges of first-time internet users falling prey to scams and lies.

The session, entitled ‘Taking Stock of India’s Information Manipulation Ecosystem’ and co-hosted by diaspora-led think-tank Stichting The London Story, was attended by members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and experts at the UK’s Home Office and others, according to a press release.

“While digital India plans to bring more Indian citizens online, first time internet users are easy to fall prey to political scams and clever lies. We must consider the implications this has for how the largest democracy in the world should navigate digitalisation,” said Gregorová, a member of Greens and the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union.

Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang, Chief Data Analyst of the London Story Saikat Chatterjee, senior correspondent at BOOM Archis Chowdhury, doctoral researcher Vignesh Karthik and Vihang Jumle were among the other speakers at the event.

Future trends
Looking ahead, the panel expressed concern about future trends in India’s information manipulation ecosystem.

“India is undergoing a troll farm arms race,” said Zhang, warning that neither the Indian government nor social media platforms have taken adequate steps to address information manipulation in India.

“Elon Musk will not pay attention to things in India. Additionally, most governments are only interested in what is happening in their own countries. It is unlikely there will be any action on India,” she was quoted as saying by the release.

Saikat Chatterjee said: “As the EU is seeking closer collaborations with India, we are investigating the capacity of India’s information manipulation ecosystem to spread disinformation and hate speech, and its potential impact on democracies around the world.” PTI

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