Indian journalist Bharat Nayak knows misinformation can have dangerous consequences. He’s witnessed it too often in his home state of Jharkhand, India.
According to Bharat, “Indian society has been gravely affected by ‘fake news’, which has contributed to a rise in hatred and violence, and horrific incidences of lynching.” Concern about misinformation was especially pronounced around last year’s Indian general election—where more than 600 million people voted in the biggest democratic exercise in history.
The spread of misinformation is something the Google News Initiative (GNI) India Training Network—a group of 240 senior Indian reporters and journalism educators—has been working to counteract, in their newsrooms and beyond.
In partnership with DataLeads and Internews, the Network has provided in-depth verification training for more than 15,000 journalists and students from more than 875 news organizations, in 10 Indian languages. Using a “train-the-trainer” approach, it’s also helped support nearly all of the fact-checking initiatives launched by Indian media over the past year.
But Network trainers wanted to do more than train their fellow journalists – they wanted to spread the message to their communities. Bharat traveled home to Jharkhand and held workshops, not only with fellow journalists, but with community groups and students—like those in the photo above.
Today, to build on the network’s progress since 2018, we’re announcing a $1 million Google.org grant that will help Internews launch a new initiative promoting news literacy among the Indian public. The funding support is part of Google.org’s broader, $10 million commitment to media literacy, in collaboration with the Google News Initiative.
How will it work? First, Internews will select a team of 250 journalists, fact checkers, academics and NGO workers, who will be trained on a curriculum developed by global and Indian experts, adapted to local needs and available in seven Indian languages. The local leaders will then roll out the training to new internet users in non-metro cities in India, enabling them to better navigate the internet and assess the information they find.
“To make journalism effective again, more than the improvements in media, what is needed is media literacy,” Bharat said. “I want to make the citizens aware of how to consume media, see news and how they can play an active role in changing things for the better.”
Starting today, Internews is putting the call out for journalists, educators, community workers and others to join the new program. We have no doubt there’ll be a strong response to the new program—and we look forward to continuing to support citizens and journalists like Bharat in the fight against misinformation in India.