An extensive survey based study titled, ‘Countering Misinformation (Fake News) in India’ by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Factly has found that people below the age of 20 or those above the age of 50 are most susceptible to be swayed by fake news.
The report is based on an extensive survey covering 891 respondents, along with structured interviews of 30 interviewees from the Technology & Internet Service Providers, Government officials, Law Enforcement, Media & Influencers, Fact Checkers, Academia Political Parties.
The report suggests that while newspapers still remain the top source of information for most, those relatively new to use of technology/internet (or the late adopters) still do not grasp the concept of fake information over these platforms. A substantial section of people is not aware of fact checking organisations and the role of agencies to verify news.
According to the report, most people use social network platforms to connect with friends and families. As age of the respondents increased, ‘Friends or Friend Groups’ and groups based on political/social/cultural beliefs of the person was chosen by a greater proportion of respondents as their main source of information on social media.
Many respondents also expressed lack of trust over conventional media (with suggestions of them being corrupted or paid media) and thus their faith in contents shared by common people over social media.
The expert interviews suggest that political parties are leveraging the pace of digital content production and grooming an informal base that creates and spreads messages to suit their campaign agenda regardless of whether said messages are factually accurate. Media groups amplify messages by creating content that is one sided and suitable to their business or other interests. This creates disillusionment with mainstream media work.
A large majority of people share and spread unverified information because of the availability of the information they have. These are driven by the social groups which they are a part of. The extent of information verification is limited by cellular data and digital literacy. A small percentage of people spread and share messages as part of propaganda and it might be directly related to their bias, revenue generation and easy access to technology.
IAMAI stated that the issue of fake news has attained prominence in recent times. Despite the fact that social media only host user generated content, these platforms are wrongly being targeted for the spread of fake news. The digital industry is concerned about this growing menace, and the association believes studies like this will help evolve our understanding of disinformation and thereby help tackle the challenge.