Ahead of the general elections, spreading of fake news through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp seems to have gathered pace, with a survey claiming that one in two respondents have received fake news in the last 30 days. This comes when Facebook claims that it removes 10 lakh fake account per day in India.
Circulation of fake news on digital platforms has been rampant these days, but many a time, it becomes a threat to social harmony and peace. An election is a battle of perception and political parties are constantly on the lookout for building that perception.
As per the survey by Social Media Matters and Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics (IGPP), over 53 per cent of the people claimed to have received fake news over Facebook and WhatsApp “due to the upcoming elections”.
The survey mentioned that since about half-a-billion voters have access to Facebook and WhatsApp, fake news can have a massive implication on the elections. As per the survey, 62% of the population believes that fake news will influence the upcoming elections.
Facebook and WhatsApp are the leading platforms being used to disseminate misinformation. The survey stated that 96 per cent of the sample population received fake news via WhatsApp. “The age group that has led the conversation, form 54 per cent of the sample population and are between 18-25 years of age. The survey has been undertaken by 56 per cent males, 43 per cent females and 1 per cent by transgenders,” it said. Interestingly, around 41% of respondents tried to search the authenticity of Information received on google. 54% of respondents said that they have never been affected be fake news, 43% of people claimed that they know who misled them.
The survey titled ‘#DontBeAFool’ covered nearly 700 users including 56 per cent men, 43 per cent women and 1 per cent transgenders.
Action taken by Facebook & WhatsApp
Facebook said in its press release that they have been working for more than 18 months now to make sure that the Indian elections were fair and free from interference, both foreign and domestic. Reportedly, Facebook last week removed nearly 700 Pages, groups and accounts of various political parties in India for spreading fake news on what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” and spam.
Anoop Mishra, social media expert told Economic Times, “Over 87,000 groups aiming to influence the voters are currently active on WhatsApp. From fake statistics related to various government policies to news promoting regional violence, manipulated political news, government scams, historical myths, propaganda to patriotism and Hindu nationalism.”
The Logical Indian take
In this era of misinformation and fake news, we must be extremely cautious. Verifying every news would be one of the important steps that should be taken.
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.