FPJ Interview: Sagar Kaul, Logically’s VP of India Operations, speaks about busting election-related misinformation and fake news

Gaurav KadamUpdated: Monday, February 21, 2022, 04:01 PM IST
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FPJ Interview: Sagar Kaul, Logically’s VP of India Operations, speaks about busting election-related fake news and misinformation |

Fake news, harmful misinformation and deliberate disinformation do the rounds of social media all year long, but its magnitude and frequency multiply 10 times during the elections. Amid the Assembly polls across five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur, we have come across several old and doctored videos circulated in order to tarnish the reputation of rival candidates or political parties. To influence the voters, many even try to pass off developmental work they haven't done as theirs. Just to garner votes from a particular community or region, some even go to the extent of concocting lies. Meanwhile, there are many websites that are trying to help the voters make the right decision by busting fake news and misinformation, and one among those is Logically.

Logically is an AI-powered platform that helps users navigate the tricky terrain of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation online. Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur and engineer Lyric Jain, the UK-based company combines advanced AI with the fact-checking teams to help governments, businesses, and the public uncover and address misinformation and disinformation. In India, the company has previously worked during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the Maharashtra Assembly elections in the same year. Ahead of the elections in the five states mentioned above, the company announced that a team of 20 fact-checkers and six Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) analysts, all based in India, will address election-related misinformation. They also introduced a WhatsApp number—+91 86400 70078—for people to report misinformation or fake news to their fact-checking teams.

In an exclusive interview with the Free Press Journal, Sagar Kaul, Logically’s VP of India Operations, explained that they have taken various steps to deal with fake news during the elections. "The fact-checkers go through social media, online blogs, or any other publicly available data to find fake news and misinformation that is in circulation. Also, as WhatsApp is one of the main sources through which fake news campaigns are run, we have introduced a WhatsApp number for the general public so that they can send us the forwards to verify. After receiving the forward, we fact-check it and send it back to them," said Kaul.

When asked if the company will be focusing on only the major states, he said, "For us, the focus is on all the five states and since we are apolitical, we would not give focus on any particular political party. We are unbiased in our manner in which we detect misinformation, the main idea is to make the general public aware and make sure that no wrong information is being circulated."

Speaking about how to avoid fake news which is being recycled over and over again, Kaul said, "For the public, the best strategy is to do a basic Google search as most of such recycled fake content has already been fact-checked. I completely agree that it is unfortunate but there is little that can be done. Here at Logically, we urge people to send us such content and we send then back the previously done fact-checks after checking it. However, some times the recycled content can also have something different and new from its previous version, hence, we make sure that we have it in our fact-check."

Talking about the recent fact-checks done by them, he said, "There was one fact-check done regarding an attack on a politician who will be contesting the election. We have also fact-checked pieces of content claiming about what a particular state government has done and what it hasn't. We have also gone through statistics to check whether the unemployment rate in a particular state has really reduced or has the crime rate actually gone down as claimed. It all depends from state to state."

Kaul further said that the fact-checkers follow the guidelines prescribed by the IFCN (International Fact-Checking Network) so that no bias seeps into the fact-check. "It's not just an individual working a particular fact-check. There are also multiple levels of supervision. Unless and until the supervisor is confident that the fact-check is factually correct and that it is neutral, it won't be published," he added.

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