A BBC research has revealed that fake news is fast spreading in India owing to a “rising tide of nationalism” where Right-Wing networks are much more organised than on the Left, pushing “nationalistic fake stories” further. The research found that in India, “facts were less important to some than the emotional desire to bolster national identity”.
“There was also an overlap of fake news sources on Twitter and support networks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the findings showed. The research, commissioned by the BBC World Service, was part of “Beyond Fake News” — a series across TV, radio and digital where users gave the BBC unprecedented access to their encrypted messaging apps in India, Kenya and Nigeria.
In its bid to fight the menace of fake news, the BBC last week said it would launch on November 12 a project with a major focus on global media literacy, panel debates in India and Kenya, hackathons exploring tech solutions and a special season of programming.
“In all three countries, distrust of mainstream news outlets pushed people to spread information from alternative sources, without attempting to verify it, in the belief that they were helping to spread the real story. People were also overly confident in their ability to spot fake news,” the researchers noted.
The worrisome part is that participants in the research made little attempt to query the original source of fake news messages, looking instead to alternative signs that the information was reliable.
“Widespread sharing of false rumours on WhatsApp has led to a wave of violence in India, with people forwarding on fake messages about child abductors to friends and family out of a sense of duty to protect loved ones and communities,” said the report. More than 30 people have been killed so far in incidents involving lynching rumours on various social media