BBC senior strategist to join Facebook India to tap fake-news crisis

Trushar Barot, a senior digital strategist at BBC, is set to join Facebook India to work on the company’s news product ahead of India’s general elections in 2019.

Barot’s appointment follows the induction of new India head Ajit Mohan, who was earlier the chief executive officer at Hotstar, and local grievance redressal officer Komal Lahiri at WhatsApp, a subsidiary of Facebook.

The string of senior-level appointments falls in the backdrop of excess scrutiny of Facebook over the spread on fake news and a series of data leaks. Facebook has maintained it is working on newer technologies and stringent controls to tackle both the issues.

In a Twitter post late Friday, Barot said he will “lead and develop integrity initiatives for Facebook in India.” 

“This will mean leading their work on combating fake news and digital misinformation, developing digital literacy training programmes, working with start-ups and most importantly, coming up with big ideas that will bring significant positive impact in the digital development of a country with over a billion people,” he wrote on the micro-blogging site.

Barot did not share more on being contacted directly. He said he will join Facebook early January.  

A Facebook spokesperson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An executive with BBC for 17 years, Barot has worked on several mobile, digital and social media initiatives at the global media organisation, including the strategy behind launching BBC’s vernacular news platforms in India. He attended Goldsmiths College in London.

At the moment, social media companies are bucking up efforts to prevent the spread of fake news and misinformation on their platforms especially when India to set to vote in five states next month and general elections in April-May 2019.

At this point, Facebook is assuring authorities that it’s taking steps to quickly identify and remove malicious content and actors. In December, the company’s global head of news product came to New Delhi and talked about Facebook’s effort to induct independent their-party fact checkers in the country. The same is being done in other geographies where Facebook is present.

Only last week, representatives from Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and tech majors met Home and Telecom ministry officials in Delhi to discuss measures to curb fake news.

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