A study conducted by Social Media Matters along with the Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics revealed that during the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, fake news has reached an all-time high.
Among the 3,752 respondents, 69 per cent claim to have received fake news during the pandemic.
74 per cent of the recipients belonged to the age category of 18-25 years.
88.4 per cent reported the major source of fake news to be WhatsApp, followed by Facebook (42.5 per cent) and Instagram (21.96 per cent).
70 per cent of the respondents reported cross-checking and verifying news which seems fake.
The major sources of fact-checking were Google Search (48.8 per cent) and Government sources (36.6 per cent).
Nearly 84 per cent stated that they do not trust such news.
76 per cent stated they inform others regarding the spread of fake news, once recognised.
89 per cent were aware that the dissemination of fake news is a crime as per the law, 30 per cent stated to report such news.
95 per cent respondents felt that there is a need to raise more awareness regarding the reporting mechanisms for fake news.
The fake news being circulated mainly consisted of details of repatriation flights, preventive measures, and treatment for Covid-19, information regarding containment zones or impending lockdowns in various areas, etc.
Amitabh Kumar, founder, 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."
He added, “To realise our dream for #DigitalIndia it is essential that we make cyberspaces safe. The spread of fake news must be curbed at the earliest owing to the grave consequences, it might have on the society not to forget the human mental health which is at its most gullible stage during the pandemic. There is a lot of work to be done by social media platforms to achieve this."
Dr. Manish Tiwari, senior 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 per cent of people in the country have got some fake news or misinformation about Covid-19 since it started; and 75 per cent of these are between the age of 18-25 yrs. 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."