Mass hysteria, widespread rumour-mongering and a few bad actors’ propensity to capitalize on uncertainty and fear has only aggravated the global gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic. This, coupled with the unrelenting speculations on the future of both personal health and the economy, places us at this critical juncture where people around the world need not only be careful but also mindful of the reality that wraps them.
Access to plausible, weighed and verified information is critical to avoid knee-jerk reactions to unverified information that can possibly compromise our security infrastructure. It is, therefore, equally important that forms of misleading content are actively identified, flagged, and blocked.
Being India’s largest digital products company and a source of legitimacy for over 400 million people, Times Internet takes its responsibility of being a source of verifiable information very seriously.
Over the past month, our top brass has been unerringly meeting, discussing and debating on the best modus operandi to tackle misinformation by leveraging our exposure, and have identified the following measures:
A Repository of Publicly Accessible Information
We realized that no amount of information is ‘adequate’ at these dire times, hence our largest news portfolio brands have taken pro-active steps to ensure unhindered access to sourced and qualified data, news, and information considering the declining propensity of social interactions and the ensuing anxiety due to the lockdown. ETPrime, Economic Times’ subscription-based premium news portal, made all insights and reportages surrounding the coronavirus pandemic free and accessible to everyone. This is in addition to a specialized section on- coronavirus updates, information, Q&A, and verified content surrounding best practices on Times of India’s digital portals.
Multi-level Information Scrutiny
Our digital abilities and strong associations with our consumers has helped us stage multiple on-the-ground interventions. Of the many noteworthy initiatives is the Times of India Fact Check, which identifies rumours and unverified forwards doing rounds on digital communication networks ranging from messaging platforms to social media, analyses them with the help of a team of experts, and establishes or admonishes their credibility based on the findings.
The results hence generated are uploaded to a public platform so people can educate themselves against misleading content. Especially in the times of a pandemic, steps like these can ensure strict action against people looking to capitalize on public uncertainty. Since the time the COVID-19 crisis struck, close to 50 odd fake news articles and social media posts have been called out by TOI Fact Check.
Exercising Thoughtful Reportage
With our restructured lifestyle, and workflow - a direct outcome of COVID-19, some brands are also trying to leverage this period to incite unnecessary user behaviours to support their business objectives. As such, many brands also look to utilize Times Internet’s digital presence to influence and permeate into our habit-cycles.
Traffic to news sites has increased manifold during the crisis, also on TIL properties. With TIL’s AdTech Network Colombia being one of the largest publisher-led ad-networks in the world, we hold ourselves accountable for the ads visible on the network and maintain high standards against ads that may jeopardize objective thinking.
Every ad creative on the Colombia platform is thoroughly analyzed and ads that look to feed on panic or advocate for unnecessary product/service usage by masking them as essential to fight against the virus are aggressively blocked, with the due understanding that brand needs will never trump human necessities.
With the highly contagious coronavirus impairing global livelihood, prevention, protection and deliberation is not only a governmental or personal responsibility. Corporates should be equally vested in protecting the community they were built to serve.
While our teams are now working from home, we hope that you have brought in multiple measures to weather the lockdown and are keeping safe. But above all, we wish you strength and resilience to overcome these testing times.