India gets its first aggregator for right-wing 'news & views'
'Ritam' hosts content from about 150 'news' portals, several of which have been accused of spreading fake news and hatred before.
When you open the 'Ritam' app, the first thing you will notice is the Sanskrit letter 'Rwi' in saffron. As you scroll down, you get a sense that it's a little different than other news aggregators. Popular news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai is called 'propagandist-in-chief' in one of the articles. The name RSS comes up quite often.
In today's post-truth world, where contrasting opinions and beliefs play a larger role than objective fact in shaping polity and public opinion, Ritam happens to be India's first aggregator app which curates right-wing 'news and views'.
The landing page of the 'Ritam' app states that "it is time to rise above the cacophony of Leftist, pseudo-secular and so-called liberal dominated media promoted by the west. Ritam is an attempt at providing a common platform for disseminating news, views and thoughts from people and publications who believe in the eternal nature of this land called Bharat."
(The about section of Ritam's website)
The app — Ritam, an acronym for ‘reliable, informative, trusted, authentic and motivating’ — was launched in early February by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat in Android. Its iOS version was launched later by union minister Smriti Irani.
Ajinkya Kulkarni, a spokesman for the app said "anti-nationals are trying bulldoze their way through with their opinions in the media space" and "Ritam stands for nationalistic news"
However the recption has been less than overwhelming, Ajinkya revealed. They failed to meet their target at launch of 5 million downloads in 3 months and since have moved from promoting only right-wing political agenda stories to 'news' of culture, sports and economy among others.
When asked about their method of aggregation, team Ritam said that their algoritm picks up stories from the portals who have partnered with them and then is picked up on the basis of the hits they are organically drawing.
About 150 portals like MyNation, OpIndia, Swarajya, RightLog, IndiaFacts, Postcard News and PGurus have signed up with Ritam and most of those sites have been accused of spreading fake news and hatred before.
On the topic of spreading fake news and hatred, team Ritam said that they don't particularly have a filtering process, as the algorithm picks up articles based on the hits they have. This can be a very dangerous feature as we have seen in the past how rumours and fake news have resulted in murders and mob lynchings.
RSS Sarasanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat launched the multilingual app RITAM in Karnavati, (Ahmedabad). The App is an initiative of the RSS Prachar Vibhag. pic.twitter.com/cqIuPsbsy3— Friends of RSS (@friendsofrss) February 3, 2019
The idea of a news aggregator was first discussed nearly two years ago within the RSS, according to a former pracharak and senior editor overseeing Ritam. Another person in the organisation said the flood of news and views critical of the RSS family of organisations on “left-leaning” digital platforms had prompted the decision to launch Ritam. Thus it begs the question that if it's just another propaganda machine created to strengthen a political agenda and target the uninformed, vulnerable mind.