It’s the era of fake news. People are circulating false information through different social media channels with a motive to spew hate, or just to get a few likes and comments.
To combat this, Pratik Sinha started Alt News, a fact-checking organisation that debunked stories spreading across the nation. We got in touch with the dynamic team at Alt News and asked them a few questions about keeping Indian media in check.
What is Alt News and how was it born?
Based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Alt News was founded in February 2017 to handle the surge of misinformation in both social media as well as mainstream media ecosystem in India. Alt News functions under the aegis of the Pravda Media Foundation, a not-for-profit company which was registered in October 2017.
नहीं, गूगल के सीईओ सुंदर पिचाई ने 2019 की लोकसभा चुनाव में वोट नहीं डाला https://t.co/RBpf66n4GR
— Alt News (@AltNews) 23 April 2019
What makes Alt News different from other media channels?
Alt News is different from a traditional media channel. It sticks to verifying claims and assertions from Social Media and mainstream media- television and print. There is no reporting involved per se.
Our objective is to place facts in the public domain. We refrain from political commentary and opinion, and we bust misinformation and disinformation on all sides of the political and ideological spectrum, without fear or favour. – Pratik Sinha
Alt News: A necessity in India’s political scene?
Pratik states that spreading wrong stories for political purposes is rampant in India. While this is nothing new, it has increased in recent years through mobile networks which have made the internet extremely accessible.
What leads to people believing fake news? The rise of social media and messaging platforms, particularly WhatsApp, brought information to millions of citizens who lack digital literacy. Also, Misinformation is shared in an organised manner across channels and Alt News intervenes in real-time to reduce the impact of these stories.
Alt News aims to reach out to as many citizens as possible through multiple channels to disperse information which has been fact-checked thoroughly.
Challenges currently in the Indian media scene: What does Alt News know?
According to Pratik, Alt news biggest challenge is the excessive politicisation of Indian media. Therefore, this has resulted in intensive, relentless and crass propaganda in favour of the ruling dispensation.
There is a disconnect between mainstream media, particularly television media, and the masses. Coverage is focused on ‘sensational’ events, at the expense of important issues of public interest.
Is the Indian media as unbiased as they claim?
As the fourth pillar of democracy, it is absolutely essential that media outlets present reports in an objective manner. A media outlet with a tilt towards a political party is not a media outlet, but a propaganda platform.
The Alt News method of fact-checking:
Alt News uses a variety of digital tools for fact-checking.
We monitor social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook on a real-time basis. We are also alerted by our followers on social media platforms, and our app. When we come across information which is dubious, we use various software which is easily accessible and easy to use.
Pratik goes on to give an example. In the case of photographs, we use the Google reverse image search tool which helps find the origin of the picture. For videos, we use software like InVid for breaking them up into individual frames, which are then scrutinized. Depending on the kind of stories we are fact-checking, we also contact relevant authorities for information and/or clarification.
How can Alt News bring about a change in India’s media reporting?
Alt News has published numerous articles calling out misinformation from mainstream media organisations. As a result, top media outlets have retracted the wrong content or issued clarification when caught on the wrong foot. As per Alt News, for any and every media organisation, credibility is key.
Alt News carries out comprehensive and rigorous fact-checking. Through this, they hope to bring in a sense of objectivity and proportion on the part of media organisations.
Done 🙂 pic.twitter.com/P4f7QGqphp
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) 23 April 2019
What is in store for Alt News in the future?
Alt News seeks to promote critical thought among Indians. Alt News plans to bring together the worlds of journalism, education and technology to make it easy for a common man to differentiate between what is true and what is not.
The long term goals are:
- Use technology to reach fact-checks to the public via mobile apps and chat messenger and social media bots for Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
- Continue the present journalistic endeavour to monitor, research and document misinformation.
- Work on creating education curriculums for schools, colleges and professionals to help them tackle the surge of information, and train them to identify the authenticity of stories circulating.
Instamojo and Alt News: Donate for the right story
Alt News is a not-for-profit initiative. As a media organisation, Alt news depended on people’s donations and grants for all financial needs.
We want to ensure that no big corporate house or political party can have any influence on Alt News. – Pratik
Alt News chose Instamojo as its platform of choice to collect donations from its audience, and have been using the platform for close to one and a half years now.
Instamojo’s reasonable rates have ensured that as a company that runs on a bootstrap budget, we do not have to part with a significant portion of our donations in the form of charges for a payment gateway. – Pratik
Alt News is now open to donations! 🙂
Please consider donating to Alt News and become a part of this fight against fake news.https://t.co/qaGVFWkqh1
Donations via online banking can be sent here:https://t.co/EkNNP68FwY
Please share! pic.twitter.com/2PryWpf0QL
— Alt News (@AltNews) 12 November 2017
If you are looking for unbiased, raw news stories, check out Alt News and contribute any way you can.
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