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Battling COVID19 and The Misinformation Contagion

While widespread panic initiated in parts by the global gravity of the COVID19 pandemic, spurred by an atmosphere of unrelenting uncertainty is bound to generate, to some degree, mass hysteria, it is also at this critical juncture that people around the world are mindful and aware of the reality that wraps them.

Knee-jerk reactions to unverified information may only lead to aggravation of direness of this situation and compromise our security infrastructure. It is therefore equally important that people have access to plausible, weighed and verified information while forms of misleading content are flagged or blocked.

Being India’s largest digital products company and a source of information for over 400 million people, Times Internet takes its responsibility of being a source of verifiable information very seriously.

Over the past month, members of our top management have been unerringly meeting, discussing and sharing their views on how best to generate awareness and tackle misinformation by leveraging our exposure, and have identified the following measures-

Public Access To Information

Just as is the case with publicly available resources, we realized that no amount of information is ‘more than necessary’, hence our largest news portfolio brands have taken steps to ensure unhindered access to verifiable information, especially considering how the environment of lockdown and lesser social interactions may lead to uncertainty.

ETPrime, Economic Times’ subscription-based premium news portal has 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.

Fact Checking and Verification

Our digital abilities and strong associations with our consumers has allowed us to stage many on-the-ground interventions. One of the many initiatives to that effect is the Times Of India Fact Check, wherein flagged and popular content doing rounds on digital communication networks ranging from messaging platforms to social media are thoroughly re-investigated by a team of experts and their credibility is analyzed.

The results hence generated, are uploaded for public viewing 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 Corona crisis struck, close to 50 odd fake news articles and social media posts have been called out by TOI Fact Check.

Responsible Publication

COVID-19 has disrupted general workflow and the decorum of our everyday lives. Our redesigned lives are also an opportune moment for habit generation, as such, many brands will also want to utilize our increased digital presence to influence and permeate into our habit-cycles.

Traffic to news sites has increased manifold during the crisis, all the more on TIL properties because of their leadership position they hold in their space. The TIL 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 creativeon 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 instated multiple measures to weather the lockdown and are keeping safe.

(This article has been authored by Mr. Vivek Pandey, VP - Revenue Strategy & Analytics, Times Internet)