The spread of fake news is at an all-time high in the midst of the coronavirus onslaught. Majority of the news currently being circulated on social media platforms have a questionable status; often they have more than one element of falsification.
This news mainly pertains to details of repatriation flights, preventive measures, treatment for Covid-19, information regarding containment zones or impending lockdowns in various areas, etc.
Social Media Matters (SMM) along with the Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics (IGPP) carried out a survey regarding Fake News generated and perceived by the regular population during this time. With around 3,752 questionnaires filled out from across India, the survey generated a detailed understanding 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 (2,766 respondents) it was closely followed by the age-group 25 to 35 with 565 respondents.
According to the survey supported by Sarvahitey and Youth Online Learning Opportunities:
69 percent respondents reported receiving fake news regarding COVID-19, during the lockdown
74 percent of the recipients belonged to the age category of 18-25 years.
88.4 percent reported the major source of Fake News to be WhatsApp, followed by Facebook (42.5 percent) and Instagram (reported by 21.96 percent)
70 percent of the respondents reported cross checking and verifying news which seems fake
The major sources of fact checking were Google Search (48.8 percent) and Government sources (36.6 percent)
Nearly 84 percent stated that they do not trust such news
76 percent stated they inform others regarding the spread of fake news, once recognised
89 percent were aware that the dissemination of fake news is a crime as per the law, only 30 percent stated to report such news.
95 percent respondents felt that there is a need to raise more awareness regarding the reporting mechanisms for fake news.
Commenting on the outcomes, Amitabh Kumar, Founder of Social Media Matters said: “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.”
Dr. Manish Tiwari, Sr. Fellow, Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics said: “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 mis-information about Covid-19 since it started; and 75 percent of these are between the age of 18-25 years. 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.”