In more than six districts of North Bengal, WhatsApp groups have been formed comprising of students, teachers, workers, house makers, men, and women who sift through and debunk the fake news and misinformation spreading in their networks to protect the public from its harmful effects.

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Tuhin Mandal, a former school teacher and activist in West Bengal, had attended a FactShala training in Bilaspur conducted by journalist Soma Basu. Beforehand, Tuhin would share messages and posts received on social media platforms without thinking about their impacts. FactShala marked a turning point in Tuhin’s life. It made him understand the urgency of the situation and he formed WhatsApp groups in North Bilaspur, Cooch Bihar, Jalpaiguri, and Malda to create awareness among different communities about handling information disseminated through social media and messaging platforms. He wanted to have a wider impact. He started posting messages about information verification techniques. He wanted to help spread awareness at the same speed that mis- and disinformation travel. He says, “If you don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, which one is real news and which are fake news, then it’s highly risky to spread it further in the form of rumors all over. I got to know this and learned that how to check the real news and fake news, from the FactShala training. I found that it’s a valuable thing that everyone should know about and therefore I started working on it and got motivated to create awareness among other people about misinformation.”

Tuhin is also a social worker and runs a magazine focused on environmental issues in Uttar Patra in Bilaspur district North Bengal. He plans to write about and publicize FactShala. Whenever Tuhin has the opportunity to engage with people online or face to face, he aims to share what he has learned. He feels that young children should be taught about these issues so that they can build resilience for the future.