Ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the rate at which misinformation is spreading through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp could be on the rise. According to a new study, one in every two persons may have received fake news in the last 30 days.
Fake news and misinformation spreading on digital platforms have always been a growing concern. The government has also directed social media companies to prevent the abuse of their platforms and warned them that influencing the electorate will not be tolerated.
As a result, internet companies such as Google and Facebook have started to step up their election safety efforts involving transparency in political ads, fact-checking and commissioning tools to keep fake news and misinformation at bay.
As per the study conducted by Social Media Matters and Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics (IGPP), more than 53 per cent of the respondents claimed that they have received fake news over different 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," study claimed.
WhatsApp claims to have made significant product changes and worked with partners across civil society to address the harmful consequences of misinformation in the run-up to the 2019 general elections. Facebook did not comment.
41 per cent of the respondents said they made efforts to authenticate news by searching it on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
Elections in India will begin tomorrow, April 11 and continue till May 19 while counting has been scheduled for May 23. Approximately 900 million voters are eligible to cast their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The survey noted that around half-a-billion voters have access to the Internet, which is why 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.
62 per cent of respondents felt the elections will 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 are based upon a sample size of 628 voters.
(With PTI inputs)