45 per cent people chose 1 on a scale of 1-5 when asked how often do they tend to believe information received by them on WhatsApp, according to a survey result taken during the ‘Fighting Fake News’ workshops. The results from questionnaire filled by rural participants have now been published in a report titled Fighting Fake News. The respondents, largely by people aged between 16 and 35, primarily targeting college students and police personnel, shows that as much as 46 per cent of the WhatsApp users are spending up to one active hour on the messaging app a day.
As part of its sustained efforts to battle the menace of fake news, New Delhi-based non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), in collaboration with WhatApp, recently concluded the first phase of workshops across 11 Indian states, making people aware of various methods of fact-checking and differentiating between news and fake news.
Under this initiative, 35,000 persons at the district and village levels were reached through workshops. As many as 4,000 of these persons were reached at the district level through trainings led by DEF Master Trainers. The other 31,000 were reached through trainings conducted by DEF’s ground staff. At each of the district-level workshops, participants were asked to fill an objective questionnaire, before and after the workshop, which tried to assess the consumption patterns of users on the private messaging app and their understanding of product design.
The survey results have now been published in a report titled Fighting Fake News: Whose Responsibility Is It. The survey finding report does not analyse the reasons behind the spread of misinformation or disinformation on the platform. It neither intends to find solutions to the problem nor point fingers at anyone, it merely aims to present findings from a survey carried out among 3,000-odd individuals across 11 Indian states during the awareness workshops titled ‘Fighting Fake News’.
The survey, which has been taken largely by people aged between 16 and 35, primarily targeting college students and police personnel, shows that as much as 46 per cent of the WhatsApp users are spending up to one active hour on the messaging app a day. As much as 43.79 per cent of the respondents use the messaging platform primarily for personal and social interactions, followed by 29 per cent of the respondents who use it primarily for work-related communication. As for the nature of these groups is concerned, 13.13 per cent of the respondents said they were part of Family Groups, 29.83 per cent said they were part of Friends Groups, 11 per cent were part of Workplace Groups. The number of people who are part of political groups is, in fact, negligible in this respondent group. Further, the report reveals that 45 per cent of the respondents chose 1 on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always) when asked how often do they tend to believe information received by them on WhatsApp.
“While conducting workshops we found that people, even in remote areas, are extensively using WhatsApp and find the private messaging channel extremely useful for day-to-day conversations as well as getting information,” said Ravi Guria, Programme Manager, who is a key trainer for the workshops. “However, most of the participants were found to be averse to the practice of checking credibility of information before sharing or forwarding the messages. People are not really in the habit of content creation and, hence, are in the habit of forwarding messages without realising consequences. There is also a lack of digital literacy among the older generation,” Guria added.
The survey report also brings out some challenges around understanding encryption and the lack of awareness on how to spot and verify misinformation. However, the workshop has been instrumental in creating awareness and saw thumping participation. “The programme is creating awareness and needs sustained efforts. Technology is evolving rapidly and with immersive technology, the task at hand will become more challenging,” said Guria, adding that DEF and WhatsApp have entered into the second phase of partnership under which 50,000 people, including civil society members, small business owners, rural artisans, youth and police officers, will be reached with the Fighting Fake News workshop across the country.
Read the survey findings here.