Beware of these "news handles"

ANI | Updated: Apr 05, 2018 19:48 IST

New Delhi [India], Apr. 5 (ANI): As fake news is on the rise in several parts of the world, media outlets in India as well have their fair share of parody account creators publishing content attributed to reputed leading dailies and broadcasters. While many argue that such parody accounts create an unwarranted impression of the media houses in question, hidden behind such content is a possibility for parody account creators to mint money through web advertising, particularly through Google and Facebook.

One such case that was studied extensively was that of multiple Macedonian websites that surfaced at the time of the general elections in the United States. As per a research, a number of young boys in the Balkan nation of Macedonia owned a minimum of a 100 pro-Trump websites, many of them filled with sensationalist, fake news. Among prominent articles that were distributed by these websites was of the Pope's approval of Trump as President, Hillary Clinton backing Trump for President and so on.

While the main idea of these young boys was to garner more clicks on their website and make money, many reputed dailies like The New York Times, The Guardian and so on fell prey to such news and published detailed articles on the same.

Similarly, in India, a number of accounts have surfaced on Twitter to spread sensational fake content to garner more views. Adding to these, these "unofficial accounts" as they describe themselves, use similar colour combinations as the original twitter handle, with gentle modifications, thus making it more convenient for a user paying lesser attention to detail to believe fake content being published through these parody accounts.

For example, after the conviction of Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the blackbuck poaching case, the parody accounts used the opportunity to put out mock tweets of people extending support to the superstar.

A parody account of a leading broadcaster, 'TIMES HOW', post the announcement of the verdict tweeted "Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan uploads Resume on Naukri . Com after Salman Khan jailed for 5 Years in the BlackBuck Poaching Case."

Similarly, a parody account of a leading newspaper, named 'Limes of India', tweeted "Celebration at Vivek Oberoi's house after Salman Khan convicted for 1998 blackbuck killing"

Also, a parody account of another English news channel, named 'RepubIic' tweeted about AIMIM leader Chief Asaduddin Owaisi extended his support to Salman Khan saying "Going to jail is haram in Islam so I request judge to not send Salman to jail instead he can be asked to serve in madrasa."

Social media trollers have also managed to create parody accounts of news agencies, one of them being of Asian News International (ANI). Through this account, named @ANI_OfficiaI tweeted Samajwadi Party (SP) Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav saying "Salman Khan was young boy when he mistakenly killed the blackbuck. And young boys make mistakes. Now he is the role model. He should not be punished."

While most of the content that is put out by these account is a mockery of the content, media houses have retaliated to the same accusing their identity of being misrepresented in the public eye.

On a related note, Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm with ties to President Trump's 2016 election campaign, reportedly had a similar mode of operation set up with Macedonian websites that were linked to Facebook, through which it published a number of misinterpreted news reports.

As per a latest update, data on more than 87 million Facebook users was reportedly shared with Cambridge Analytica, much more than the 50 million previously estimated.

According to a blog post by Facebook's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer, third-party developers could interact with the Facebook via an application programming interface through which the third parties extract the user's data. (ANI)