Dismislab

Official Desk
Misinformation and Bangladesh
This article is more than 1 year old

Misinformation and Bangladesh

Dismislab

Official Desk

The expansion of internet in Bangladesh coincides with the exponential increase of internet users as well as usage. According to Global Digital Statshot report of 2017, Dhaka city has the second largest population of active Facebook users in the world. Not only that, Tiktok and Youtube users are also increasing rapidly. Although Twitter is not that popular, Instagram’s popularity among the youth is quite noticeable. Besides, there are thousands of portals in the digital world. In this digital ocean full of so many outlets on so many platforms, there is an abundance of unverified, doctored or false information.

Last year, a Sri Lanka-based organisation, LIRNEasia, published a research report that analysed online trends of the types of misinformation being spread and means of their verification. Ayesha Binte Towhid of Nanyang Technological University, was the lead researcher. Click here to read her full article — Misinformation in Bangladesh: A Brief Primer.

The first part of the research provides an overview of the general trends of internet use in Bangladesh. It also discusses gradual increase of online media. According Google Trend data, the word “rumor” (গুজব in Bengali) was among the most searched words in July 2019. Notably, this coincides with the viral rumor of that time that children’s skulls were being used building the Padma Bridge. “Rumor” ranked as a top search in the early stages of the Covid pandemic as well.

The paper discusses a number of government and private initiatives to prevent this epidemic of misinformation in Bangladesh. While the government has set up a number of agencies and directorates including the ICT, NTMC and BTRC, the primer points out the definition of ‘misinformation’ is still not clear or uniform within these agencies. Besides, private organisations like BIPSS and CGSS are working to protect citizens from misinformation. Even universities, like ULAB, have undertaken similar initiatives.

Apart from this, a number of Bangladesh-based factchecking organisations are engaged in fact checking and verify misinformation with a goal to keep the digital ecosystem safe from false information and rumours. Mentionable among these fact checking outfits are BD FactCheck, Boom Bangladesh, Fact-Watch, Jachai, and Rumor Scanner.

Also, corporate initiatives, (Preneur Lab, Grameenphone etc.), non-government organisations (SACMID), international NGO’s (UNICEF, UNDP, Digital Khichuri Challenge etc.) are playing active roles to prevent the spread of misinformation and rumor.

The mentioned study also includes some general tactics to spread misinformation, such as:

  1. Posts begins with statements like, “The media won’t share, it is your duty to share” or “Corporate media makes many things viral for their interest, this needs to be made viral for commoners’ interest”
  2. The post ends with the note “collected”, thus the original source cannot be easily tracked.
  3. Emotionally blackmailing people to share the post if they are true believers.
  4. Sharing the post is often associated with giveaways, discounts, free offers, etc.
  5. Established and trusted media houses are impersonated by using a slightly modified logo or font.
  6. Recycling old news with new twists and promoting it as a recent event