WhatsApp Vigilantes: An exploration of citizen reception and circulation of Whatsapp misinformation linked tp mob violence in India

Even as mob violence is on the increase in India, there is little doubt that such violence is deeply mediated through the use of digital social media use, especially peer to peer applications like WhatsApp. Much of mainstream discourse tends to overemphasise the alleged digital illiteracy of users and fails to incorporate the social and political contexts in which media and communication technologies are used. In late 2018, WhatsApp awarded 20 research studies focused on the various aspects of misinformation and its consequences. In partnership with LSE, Maraa conducted qualitative research on WhatsApp users and misinformation linked to mob violence in India. The study avoids the narrow focus on the acts of violence or its perpetrators and victims as isolated individuals. The key findings of the study seek to illuminate a set of conditions under which society has become inflammable. Based on our findings, we also make recommendations that are relevant to both government agencies in India as well as to WhatsApp and other technology companies. The full report can be downloaded here.


Research study of Community Radio Ownership in India

Community Radio in India is close to completing two decades of its existence in the country. The first ‘Community Radio Guidelines’ came in 2002 allowing only educational and academic institutions to run campus-level radio stations. This was revised in 2006 to allow Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), State Agriculture Universities, institutions connected with Indian Council for Agricultural Research, and Krishi Vigyan Kendras to apply for CR licenses. They barred the entry of individuals, political parties and their affiliates (like trade unions and students’ wings), for-profit organizations, and those, which are banned by government.

It is said that it is important to understand media ownership since it plays a definitive role in determining the content of the media, i.e. the agenda-setting function of the media. Ownership is also a key indicator and measure of the plurality and diversity of media and its content. But is alternative media, like community radio, immune to the factors like politicization and corporatization of media? Often little or no attention is given to ownership patterns within Community Radio sector. It is assumed that because of the extremely explicit application criteria, ownership is transparent. Also, because of the non-profit nature of the medium it is assumed that it is beyond the interest of the rich and powerful.

The research study by maraa attempted to raise these questions and investigate whether CR stations are indeed ‘community based’. Initial findings of the study observed trends of indirect politicization and corporatization and direct ownership by several religious groups in the sector, flouting both the letter and spirit of the CR guidelines.

Here is the link to the three part study-