Editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam found that the Google-funded "fact check" team was merely a group of "non-existent" Indians in Bangladesh who had little to no experience in journalism.



Google ‘Fact Check’ Team Just A Bunch Of ‘Non-Existent’ Indians In Bangladesh: Report




"..... An editor in chief of a left-leaning news website was fact-checked by a group called "The Healthy Indian Project" over his Instagram post. 

Upon further digging, the National Pulse editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam found that the Google-funded "fact check" team was merely a group of "non-existent" Indians in Bangladesh who had little to no experience in journalism.

Kassam recounted in a story that Instagram notified him that his "viral post" was "fact checked" by the said group. He then decided to investigate the group.

According to the National Pulse, "The Healthy Indian Project" or THIP began as a fitness and lifestyle website in 2018. It is led by CEO Sudipta Sengupta, a marketing consultant from the small city of Gurgaon, Haryana in India. Now, THIP is a member of the the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which the report describes as a "high-profile Poynter network."

Poynter or the Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a non-profit journalism school and research organization based in St. Petersburg, Florida. It owns the Tampa Bay Times and operates PolitiFact.

The report said that there had been two separate audits of the THIP, dated May 21, 2020 and August 25, 2021. The May 2020 audit spoke about non-partisanship concerns, while the more recent August 2021 audit reported the organization's finances, specifically a grant from Google.

In a Substack post, Kassam recounted how on February 6, he shared a screenshot of an article on Forbes written by Paul Hsieh and originally titled "Could a 'Morality Pill' Help Stop the COVID-19 Pandemic?" The title now reads "No, Don't Use A 'Morality Pill' To Stop The Covid-19 Pandemic."

Kassam said that the article, dated August 30, 2020 discussed how the "widespread administration of psychoactive drugs" may provide "'moral enhancement' that would make people more likely to adhere to social norms such as wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines."

This part of the article was highlighted by Kassam in the screenshot. His post was also retweeted by controversial podcaster Joe Rogan, sparking Hsieh and Forbes to revise the headline and publish an amendment to the article clarifying that Hsieh did not favor the "morality pill."

Kassam argued that he did not care about Hsieh's position on the matter and that he was merely sounding the alarm on this kind of ideology. However, Instagram "fact checked" his post and decided to mark it as a violation against his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Kassam argued further that the "fact check" is taking the spotlight away from the very real discussion about the "morality pill," which he believes society should be talking about right now. The editor-in-chief dug further and found out that it was a certain Dr. Shikha Shiromani who fact checked his post. The doctor does not appear on the staffing page for THIP and does not have much information online. This led him to doubt the actual existence of the doctor.

Further investigation showed that THIP latest address listed is in the Hooghly district in West Bengal, India. As per Google StreetView, the surrounding neighborhoods appear residential and not very businesslike. Kassam called it the "slums." He also reported that THIP once had only roughly $1,300 to its name. But a 2021 balance sheet revealed a new amount of $31,000. The group admitted on its website that it received a "grant of USD 31,800 from YouTube (via the Google News Initiative) through Fact Checking Development Fund."

Kassam concluded, "this Google-backed censorship program in an Indian slum has at least one more bizarre approach to transparency and fact-checking."

What transparency?

Aside from Kassam's revelation, it's also worth noting that PolitiFact was founded by a former "journalist in residence" in China under the Chinese Communist Party- someone who under this program worked with Chinese state-owned media outlets.

Poynter, which operates PolitiFact, also has close partnerships with China's Tiktok and receives funding from the CCP, which is known for its massive propaganda campaigns."