New Delhi: Amidst the Coronavirus lockdown, Fake News has reached an all-time high. The majority of the news currently being circulated in and around social media platforms have a questionable status. This news mainly consists of details of repatriation flights, preventive measures, and treatment for COVID-19, information regarding containment zones or impending lockdowns in various areas, etc.
During such trying times, Social Media Matters (SMM) along with the Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics (IGPP) has carried out a detailed survey regarding Fake News generated and perceived by the regular population during COVID-19. With around 3752 questionnaires filled out from across India, the survey generated a detailed understanding of fake news by a variety of people belonging to different age groups and states across India. While the majority of participants lied in the age-group of 18 to 25 (2766 respondents) it was closely followed by the age-group 25 to 35 having 565 respondents. The survey was supported by Sarvahitey and Youth Online Learning Opportunities.
The survey highlights extremely relevant information, while helping decode the various aspects of fake news, and not only how it is responded to, but also how it is acted upon. It furthers enlightens one to tackle the onset of fake news among the Indian population.
According to the survey:
- 69% respondents reported receiving fake news regarding COVID-19, during the lockdown
- 74% of the recipients belonged to the age category of 18-25 years.
- 88.4% reported the major source of Fake News to be WhatsApp, followed by Facebook (reported by 42.5%) and Instagram (reported by 21.96%)
- 70% of the respondents reported cross-checking and verifying news which seems fake
- The major sources of fact-checking were Google Search (48.8%) and Government sources (36.6%)
- Nearly 84% stated that they do not trust such news
- 76% stated they inform others regarding the spread of fake news, once recognized
- 89% were aware that the dissemination of fake news is a crime as per the law, only 30% stated to report such news.
- 95% respondents felt that there is a need to raise more awareness regarding the reporting mechanisms for fake news.
Commenting on the outcomes of this survey, Amitabh Kumar, Founder of Social Media Matters quoted, “Misinformation is probably the most complex phenomenon of the information age, as it attacks the basic fragment of our modern society, which is an informed citizen. We need to take up a systematic approach to ensure we build capacities of fact seeking”.
“To realize our dream for #DigitalIndia it is essential that we make cyberspaces safe. The spread of fake news must be curbed at the earliest owing to the grave consequences, it might have on the society not to forget the human mental health which is at its most gullible stage during the pandemic. There is a lot of work to be done by Social Media Platforms to achieve this.SMM humbly believes that policymakers and government agencies will find our survey extremely useful, in devising action plans to deal with the ‘fake news pandemic’, which is slowly increasing exponentially in the country” Kumar further added.
The increase in the spread of Fake News highlights the erosion of the long-existing institutional walls against misinformation in the era of the internet. The concern is global but much remains unknown owing to the existing vulnerabilities of humans, society and institutions only to be manipulated by malicious actors. In the very beginning, fake news might seem harmless similar to any other joke which circulated over social media and the internet. However, fake news comes bearing many negative consequences which can be understood very little in research and practice.
Dr. Manish Tiwari, Sr. Fellow, Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics quoted, “Social media is becoming the new carrier of info-demics in these times of pandemic… Almost 70 percent of people in the Country have got some fake news or misinformation about Covid-19 since it started; and 75 percent of these are between the age of 18-25 yrs. It’s clear, young people are being targeted to further spread the misinformation and fake news as they are prime users of all the social media platforms.”