9 Mar 2014

The Missing Link

With the advent of Social Media (SM), there are far more debates on politics and governance happening in the country, opening up space for public participation on an unprecedented magnitude. However, such discourse is also prone to 5-minute-Google based argumentation, made-up-facts, and outright lies + propaganda. Often, most of the audience being innocent bystanders gets influenced by statistics presented as gospel truth, but really are cherry-picked / twisted facts, opinions or worse, falsehoods. Some argue that the latter is often more pronounced - the frontyard of SM is littered with sponsored bots.

This is dangerous, since such incorrect statistics not just influences public opinion, but also translate into potentially ill-informed electoral choices on a wide scale.

    Here we would occasionally attempt fact-based research of contemporary topics related to politics, economics and governance- questions which are answerable based on reliable data available in public domain, but remain unsettled in SM due to the aforementioned issues. In this quest, we would continuously strive to keep the definition of reliable data as tight as possible. To that end, the below is important. 
    • Census, central regulators publications, standard statistics by GoI where no scope for manipulation exists are reliable data (eg: GDP absolute numbers are ok as they present an amount value, poverty rate decline is not ok as GoI can change the definition of poverty year-on-year).
    • Sample based analyses (eg surveys, opinion polls) need to be viewed with suspicion - sample collection technique, questionnaire design and methodology for synthesis needs to be analyzed before using output from such studies - even then they need to be supplemented with other data sources. 
    • Primary analysis by experts, if based on non-public data, to be taken as supporting proof if hygiene conditions (rigour of analysis, availability of all relevant data, and non-conflicted position of the expert) are met. If such analysis is based on public data, it would be replicated here.
    • Views and opinions expressed by experts should at best be taken as starting guidance, but not as reliable data.
    • News articles and wikipedia pages at best provide initial hypothesis, they do not constitute hard facts and would not be used. 
    • Data provided by conflicted parties needs to be summarily rejected in entirety.
    Occasionally, falsehood-based propaganda by public figures (journalists / politicians / anyone with potential to attract significant public attention) would also find special mention.

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