New Delhi: Ahead of the general elections, spread of misinformation through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp seems to have gathered pace, with a study claiming that one in two respondents have received fake news in the last 30 days.
Circulation of fake news on digital platforms has been a pain point, and the government has warned social media companies that any abuse of the platforms to influence electorate will not be tolerated.
Accordingly, social media giants like Facebook and Google have stepped up election safety efforts, inducing transparency in political ads, roping in an army of fact checkers and commissioning tools to weed out content that is flagged to be false.
As per the survey by Social Media Matters and Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics (IGPP), over 53 per cent of the respondents claimed to have received fake news over various social media platforms “due to the upcoming elections”.
“It has been noted that Facebook and WhatsApp are the platforms which are being used excessively to misinform the users. An approximate of 1 in two Indians have agreed to have received fake news in the last 30 days,” it claimed.
When contacted, Whatsapp said in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, the company has made significant product changes and worked with partners across civil society to address the harmful consequences of misinformation. It also pointed to its blogpost that highlights the steps taken. Facebook declined to comment.
Interestingly, about 41 per cent of the respondents said they made efforts to authenticate a news by searching it on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
Elections in India will begin on April 11 and continue till May 19, with counting scheduled on May 23. Nearly 900 million voters are eligible to cast their votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The survey noted that since about half-a-billion voters have access to Internet, fake news can have a massive impact on the elections.
“During the election season, the escalation of fake news paces faster and eventually impacting the decision of the voters,” it added.
The survey further claimed that 62 per cent respondents felt the electionswill be “influenced” by the misinformation that the users are receiving.
“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.
The findings of the survey is based upon a sample size of 628 voters across the country.