In an era of fake news, check out India’s homegrown Hoax Slayer

It worries me that people don’t fact-check, says Mumbai businessman Pankaj Jain, who runs the page.
Updated on Jan 14, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

Post-truth was declared 2016’s Word Of The Year by Oxford Dictionaries. No surprise there. After all, we are deluged with enthusiastically shared messages that care little for the truth.

If you’re one of those that cares, you can head to the Facebook page Social Media Hoax Slayer, which aims to record and fact-check the information doing the rounds on your screens.

The page carries the story being spread, and debunks its claims with facts and original photos. One recent post focused on a much-shared photo of a man being roughed up by a crowd in the aftermath of demonetisation. The post claimed it was Harsh Vardhan, of India’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

Hoax Slayer broke down that hoax thus: The man was actually Subrata Mishra of the BJP, getting roughed up for an unconnected reason in West Bengal, in October, two months before demonetisation was implemented. It also linked to news reports that carried the real story, and a clarifying tweet by Vardhan himself.

The hoax involving union minister Harsh Vardhan debunked.
The hoax involving union minister Harsh Vardhan debunked.

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“People keep sharing information without really checking whether it is true or not. As long as it is something they like or something shocking they pass it on,” says Pankaj Jain, the Mumbai-based businessman who runs the page.

He says he set it up because he was getting increasingly annoyed with the incorrect and often malicious information going around and wanted to do something about it. “When I came across the UK-based site Hoax-Slayer, I was impressed by their work.” The page follows similar principles.

Social Media Hoax Slayer has garnered 16, 949 followers in the year since it was created. Jain says traffic picked up after demonetisation, which birthed rumours that went viral despite their outlandish claims — such as the one that claimed the new Rs 2000 note would have technology to help track the corrupt.

Conchita Rodrigues, a Mumbai-based marketing manager, has been following the page for nearly a year. “I wish everyone would follow it so they were aware of what’s right and wrong,” she says. “This will help curb political and communal unrest and check fear and panic.”

The proliferation of unreliable sources on the internet had made him extremely cynical about information on the internet, adds Abhishek Nag, a research scholar in Kolkata and another follower. “We needed something that would expose falsities from all sides in a fair way. That’s what I find Hoax Slayer doing.”

WHAT: Social Media Hoax Slayer, a Facebook page dedicated to debunking ’fake news’



    Dipanjan Sinha is principal correspondent, weekend features in Mumbai. He has been a journalist for seven years now and worked on the desk, news and features teams

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