The tiny Indian Ocean Republic faced a plethora of fake news ahead of the polls of the Nov 7. The result is an astonishing win by the outgoing regime.
Fake news on social media is a problem even the U.S. or Malaysia did not succeed to contain.
In the fake news business, Facebook stands as the number one provider of a platform for the spread of anything fake.
And in a country like Mauritius where trust in the ‘official’ and mainstream media is on a constant slide, the impact is even greater.
Facebook as a company also has WhatsApp which is another tool used for the spread of fake news.
In the general elections in Mauritius, Facebook stood out as the platform for fake news.
TOSSING THE ELECTIONS IN ONE DAY!
The biggest victims of the fake news industry in the tiny Island Republic are the opposition parties, the PTR (Labour) and the MMM.
The Movement Militant Mauricien and the PTR were on a surge since the nomination day, two weeks ago. But it is the MSM-ML of Premier Pravind Jugnauth that won the polls with an upper hand.
Local experts say the results do not reflect the sentiments across several key areas in the country.
RUMOURS OF ANTI-HINDU BASHING
The MMM grappled with a series of disinformation tactics. Pictures of some of its candidates saying they support the LGBT movement may have hurt its chances.
The memes on Facebook was meant to get the Muslims in particular not to vote for the MMM candidates. It seems to have produced the exact results.
The PTR, accused in a last-minute ditch of anti-Hindu bashing to diminish its chances, saw a complete swing of the Hindu votes balance against it.
Its leader, Navin Ramgoolam was defeated by the ruling coalition candidates.
The fake news concocted on Facebook and WhatsApp went even further. They took various morphing characters, but in the end, the dice was set.
This exposes the vulnerabilities political formations face in the spread of fake news in social media.
Facebook, as it is today, will not be able to control or fight the spread of misinformation. It is aware of it but it does not have any solutions in sight.
Misinformation is spread through various stages on Facebook. First of all, someone starts a post which is shared on pages.
Facebook shows the person is a ‘Conversation starter’ but if no one complains about the post, Facebook won’t react to it.
It becomes a free for all and anyone can start a conversation accusing a political organisation or a government of crimes it did not commit.
The pages where such posts are shared allows the subscribers or those who liked the page to view the posts.
If the pages are not private, the post is thus a public post. People following the page can also re-share the post. This does make them a conversation starter if they share it on other pages.
No one but the persons sharing the posts is responsible. The page admins are not held responsible. They are just moderators who are allowing posts to be shared on the page.
This poses a problem for Facebook and for people or political organisations that are the target of fake news.
However, it is the quick action the organisations can take that will provide a buffer that may stop the viral spread of such fake posts.
Nonetheless, Facebook leaves this responsibility to those affected. As a matter of fact, It does not take any responsibilities.