INDIAN - SRI LANKAN FACT CRESCENDO THE INDEPENDENT (OR IS IT?)
22 May 2020 12:34 pm
"Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka" is a company that is reviewing information posted on Facebook in Sri Lanka and ranking them with accuracy. Owned by the Indian Company "Fact Crescendo", its official Facebook page describes as follows.
But the link the description provided cannot be accessed displaying that its server IP address www.srilanka.factcrescendo.com could not be found. This Facebook page was created on September 05, 2019, 13 days before the proclamation of the 2019 presidential election.
The company Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka nevertheless continues to trace into the level of accuracy of information shared on Facebook, and based on reports submitted the Facebook Company marks them "False" and informs everyone who shared them, thereby slashing the post reach of the pages or accounts that shared them, and in some cases suspending from publishing content.
If Fact Crescendo in fact is "independent" and "impartial" as they claim to be, their ratings at least should have been fair and reasonable. The level of legitimacy on the fact that Facebook is making decisions based on the reports submitted by this company is a debate that should be meeting a separate conversation, for which we hope to publish another article in future. We leave this note, simply questioning the independence and the impartiality of Fact Crescendo.
Example - 1
Below is an investigative report by Fact Crescendo on a statement conveyed by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero about the famous Infertility Pills myth (Wanda Pethi) among anti Muslim activists.
The report at its preface suggests that Bodu Bala Sena Movement is an organization "formed on the basis of preservation of Buddhist social values in the face of global trends."
However, Bodu Bala Sena Movement was one of the first political organizations that had declared support to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election advocating for political mainstreams stemmed by Sinhalese Buddhist racism, whilst being blessed by the Rajapaksa rule before 2015. It was never evident of any activity on the preservation of Buddhist social values in the face of global trends, but had paved its way into a political breakthrough by stemming hate and extremism on the Catholic citizens of Sri Lanka at a debut approach, and then the Sri Lankan Muslims. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was prosecuted for allegedly attacking a Catholic praying centre, and needless to remind that the notorious "Assault in Aluthgama" incident launched against the Sri Lankan Muslim community was masterminded by the Bodu Bala Sena Movement. That being said, the Bodu Bala Sena Movement is an extremist organization to its root that provokes violence.
On the other hand, the greatest gift the Buddhists were given is the Lord Buddha's vision for nonviolence. The teachings of Buddhism offers a philosophy in which the differences of nationality, caste are excluded and equality is advocated. Discarded violence, its vision for love and peace is uncanny. Preservation of such value through Gnanasara Thera being a medium is never an effective suggestion.
Dependent on Fact Crescendo for impartial rating, when Fact Crescendo itself has published a very partial report on the Bodu Bala Sena Movement with a very partial preface, is no different to the example mentioned above.
Also, part of the content in the report, [roughly translated into English] cited, "..the Bodu Bala Sena Movement - formed on the basis of preservation of Buddhist social values in the face of global trends - strongly expressed its stance amid controversial issues. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero who is leading it has been imprisoned on the very reasons," is a false statement.
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was convicted guilty by the Court of Appeal and sentenced to prison for behaving aggressively inside the Magistrate Court chamber with verbally assaulting the state attorneys with obscene language thereby committing a contempt of court. There is no connection between the so called fact that "Bodu Bala Sena Movement was formed on the basis of preservation of Buddhist social values in the face of global trends" and his Court Verdict whatsoever. The report's citation that Gnanasara Thero "strongly expressed its stance amid controversial issues" has no relevance to the court sentence either, for he was convicted guilty for violating the country's law by committing contempt of court by behaving aggressively within the chamber. Fact Crescendo, a media body that is digging into the accuracy of others, prefaces itself into the Social Media spotlight by producing a massive False report.
The myth that Muslim national hotel owners of Sri Lanka are mixing "Infertility Pills" into food with intent to sterilize Sinhalese males had long been circulating on Social Media, and the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) calling in a press conference on March 15, 2018 had stressed that there is no medication to sterilize males in modern medicine thereby debunking the myth, following an incident in which a group of Sinhalese youth had assaulted Muslims at a hotel in Ampara on February of the same year.
However, Fact Crescendo cluttering back a very old sentiment by Gnanasara Thero has published a news item on February 24, 2020 reawakening public's curiosity on the "Infertility Pills" once again. Giving into rating a fake news item published on 2018 should be viewed as a commission to stemming the re-circulation of the Infertility Pills myth among the society provoking communal unrest rather than an "independent and impartial" attempt to save Gnanasara Thera from the allegations. Why does Fact Crescendo prioritise a very old story this much, in the backdrop that the Infertility Pills myth is vaguely being addressed among the society in February, 2020? On the other hand, is it coincidence that the Facebook profile of which Fact Crescendo highlights to have promoted this misinformation on Social Media bears the United National Party's Elephant (Aliya) symbol in its Profile Picture? (No such Facebook account can be found upon search in the present)
Since it is prejudice to conclude that Fact Crescendo is politically biased and is not independent on the mere basis of one news item, let us analyse another example.
Example - 2
Below is an investigative report by Fact Crescendo published on January 14, 2020 over heading, "Did the Public Service Commission decide to reinstate Dr. Safi in service?"
This is completely a False explanation.
On May 23, 2019, "Divaina", a mainstream newspaper in Sri Lanka, had published a news item with heading [roughly translated into English], "Thowheed Jamaath Doctor Sterilized Four Thousand Sinhalese Buddhist Mothers following Cesarean Surgery", without mentioning a name on accounts to the accused medical officer. It is no secret that Divaina Newspaper is close to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). It was Professor Channa Jayasumana, a powerful SLPP figure and a devotee, who had published a Facebook remark implying that the news item was about Dr. Safi on the day itself. On the night of May 24, 2019, Police had arrived in Dr. Safi's residence on a search and arrested him on the dawn of May 25, 2019. However, it was noteworthy that the medical officer was arrested on the allegation of making illicit assets.
That being said, the Police had received no complaints pertaining to sterilization procedures allegedly performed by Dr. Safi by the time he was arrested. On the other hand, Fact Crescendo in its investigative report [roughly translated into English] cited, "Dr. Safi who served as a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology in the General Hospital of Kurunegala was accused to have performed sterilization procedures on many Sinhalese women, without consent." This is completely a False statement, by means in which media speculations had suggested that Dr. Safi had allegedly sterilized these women by squeezing the Fallopian tube during cesarean surgeries, not by performing unlawful sterilization procedures, or by common definition Ligation and Recession of Tubes (LRT) procedures, on large scale, as Fact Crescendo suggested.
Also, complaints began to receive against the medical officer from May 26, 2019 onwards, after he was arrested. However, according to Fact Crescendo's report, the investigation was not initiated after receiving the complaints, but the investigation was initiated and the supposed victim was publicly invited by the Police through media to produce statement thereafter. What had actually happened was that a news item was fabricated by media and largely publicized, after which Dr. Safi was arrested. Fact Crescendo is elaborating the whole story in a whole different point of view - their own point of view.
Proving the accuracy to the claim whether Dr. Safi was reinstated in duty on January 14, 2020 is one thing, but elaborating a distorted story of Dr. Safi's arrest on a complete personal point of view bidding the will of its own political ideology is another. This is not the objective of a Facebook Fact Checker. Because, an Independent and Impartial Fact Checker, by definition, is not a judicial body. It should merely report the accuracy of facts shared on Facebook.
More examples, if necessary, can be found, but we believe that these would suffice given that it is pointless to waste time on these reports.
These linguistically outstanding Sinhala reports are being written by a person called "Sahan Perera" on behalf of Fact Crescendo, according to their website.
The website mentions of this 'outstanding Sinhala writer' in English citing, "Equipped with Sri Lankan as well as foreign exposure, he brings in over 13 years of experience in Print and Digital newsroom environments and has been instrumental in several key digital initiatives." His photo displays a black and white figure in 70's fashioned hairstyle, presumably an edited photo giving the audience an impression that this photo was taken during the technically-challenged bell-bottomed era. But nowhere were we able to locate a Facebook profile with that photo under the name "Sahan Perera". Upon our queries with media colleagues who have had affiliations with various bodies, we learnt no information on a Sahan Perera, or a character that matches a such personality with over 13 years of experience. But this man appears to be the sole authority of Fact Crescendo, who declares the verdict on the truth and falsity of news and photos posted on Facebook in Sinhala, as it does not mention of any other Sinhalese Sri Lankan.
So, although the Fact Crescendo Company claims to be independent and impartial, its investigations into material that appears to be in Sinhala are being operated by a politically biased imbecile who fails to draw a line between profession and political opinion whilst producing misinformation through reports submitted on behalf of Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka.
The website also details of his heroic acts against false news, sorted of which below are two instances in which he depicted his utmost heroism over misinformation shared on Social Media.
Even a child can understand that posts as these are being shared on Social Media for giggles and humor, begs the question with reasonable doubt whether Sahan Perera combats against such harmless memes by rating them False upon earning benefits by deceiving the Indian mother Company Fact Crescendo. Or, does he commit himself to making Facebook a Daham School-like pure area in a mission to enlighten the users, or does Sahan Perera intend to make the Sri Lankan Facebook space equivalent to CNN, BBC, AFP-like, we do not know. Nevertheless, we feel that that the Indian Fact Crescendo Company should reconsider his certificates of service, the ones he tabled upon being hired, several times.
On one hand, an Indian company dominating the Sri Lankan Social Media Space by determining the accuracy of what is posted on Sri Lankan Facebook Space raises serious issues on sovereignty. On the other hand, there is an imbecile, hired by the Indian Mother Company, who does not know how to do his job impartially and distorts, misinterprets, and promotes political ideology within his scope of work using the name of a respectable company.
We hope to write to the Indian Mother Company Fact Crescendo and the Facebook Company from the organizational level in this regard, and will further take actions based on their responses.