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People below age 20 or above 50 more susceptible to Fake News: Factly -IAMAI study


An extensive survey based study titled, ‘Countering Misinformation (Fake News) in India’ by Factly & Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) 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 was released yesterday.

The report has three main components:

  • A web survey that collected data to understand the patterns of information consumption in India and if there is a correlation between beliefs, attitudes, bias and motivation to share information.
  • Consolidated opinions of multiple stakeholders extracted from semi structured interviews.
  • Extensive section on recommendations, case studies and best practices for tackling misinformation.

Web Survey

  • The survey was attempted by 1286 respondents, of which 891 completed the entire survey
  • On average, respondents spent 13 minutes in filling the survey. Respondents together spent more than 278 hours in filling the survey

The following are the key observations based on the analysis of the survey responses

  • ­The analysis suggests that the young (below 20 years) and old (above 50 years) may be most susceptible to fake news.
  • Those who are relatively new to use of technology/ internet & smartphones may be more susceptible to fake news than others.
  • Newspapers still remain one of the top sources of information for people across age groups.
  • Connecting with friends & family, exchange of information related to work/study and news are the greatest drivers behind people using social media.
  • 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.
  • Background evidence and trust in organizations/persons are what make most people to believe in the information they receive on social media.
  • Benefit to others and the lack of trust on mainstream media are what drive people to forward information on social media.
  • People trust neutral media and fact-checking organizations more than others.
  • A substantial percentage of people are not aware of the existence of fact checking organizations.
  • People verify the information they receive when they are pushed to do so.
  • Fake news has a greater probability of being correctly identified when it is fact checked/debunked by multiple organizations and is widely debunked

Semi Structured Interviews
76 interviewees from the Technology & Internet Service Providers, Government officials, Law Enforcement , Media & Influencers, Fact Checkers, Academia Political Parties were contacted. Out of the 76, thirty (30) of them gave consent to be interviewed.  Below are some highlights from these interviews:

  • Urgent need to terminate the use of term fake news and develop standard glossary that defines specific types of types of information manipulation, interpretation and context.
  • Moral outrage and bias are a huge factor in people having an uptake for information that is unverified and the need to be part of a group and social acceptance within their networks also drives people to share unverified information
  • The main distribution platforms for unverified information in India are WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Google Search, Facebook and other digital platforms limit content that can be viewed, creating an atmosphere that is polarized and partisan.
  • 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
  • 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. ­The extent of information verification is limited by cellular data and digital literacy.
  • In spite of growing technology penetration, there are no structures or curriculum at the ground level to create awareness and understanding of digital content.
  • Media groups amplify messages by creating content that is one sided and suitable to their business or other interests. ­This creates a disillusionment with mainstream media work
  • 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.
  • A large number of messages circulating are politically and religiously charged messages.

The report contains an exhaustive section on recommendations drawn from the best practices across. The recommendations are provided for a variety of stakeholders.

For Government – Policy & Regulation

  • Cultivating Leadership
  • Constituting a working group
  • Monitoring committees
  • Financial resources
  • Regulating Social & Civic Responsibility
  • Mainstreaming Digital Literacy
  • Data Protection
  • Strengthening RTI act & Open Data
  • Election Commission’s measures
  • Stakeholder engagement

For Technology Platforms

  • Capacity Building
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Compliance
  • Helplines for reporting
  • Local language access & moderation

For Media

  • Organization Architecture & Affiliation
  • Staff capacities
  • Robust editorial systems
  • Diversity
  • Self-Regulation

For Academia, Civil Society & Discourse

  • Research
  • Fund Allocation
  • Training

The full report can be accessed here.


About Author

Rakesh has been working on issues related to Right to Information (RTI) for a decade. He is a Data/Information enthusiast & passionate about Governance/Policy issues.

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