As social distancing becomes the new norm in India, social networking sites in India are seeing a surge in the number of users and the amount of time users spend networking online.

Sunil Kamath, Chief Business Officer, ShareChat, a video-sharing and social networking service, said that the platform saw over 20 per cent growth in user-generated content from the first week of March to the last week of the month.

According to data shared by ShareChat, the platform saw news content surge by 115 per cent during the period and health-related content climb from an average of 6,000 daily posts in the first week to 24,000 posts in the fourth week.

Social media applications saw a 46.28 per cent increase in time spent during the lockdown, with a 49.23 per cent increase in engagement and a 29.55 per cent increase in daily active users, data from technology firm Bobble AI showed.

“Last week, we surveyed LinkedIn members and found that, out of those working from home, nearly 30 per cent plan to increase learning, if they’re able to find the time to do it,” said a spokesperson from LinkedIn, a professional networking platform.

“Conversations on remote working, social distancing, crisis management, business continuity, online learning and collaboration are helping members stay strong, pivot businesses, and seek new ways of engaging with their kids at home. Some are also trying to learn and upskill at home,” the spokesperson added.

Creating awareness

Platforms are capitalising on this uptick to help people in need and to create awareness. Facebook, for instance, has introduced a ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information Centre’ feature on its platform now, which provides news and updates from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and global health organisations.

ShareChat is running campaigns that encourage its users to practice social distancing, and wash their hands regularly, among other precautions that help prevent the spread of the virus, Kamath said.

The LinkedIn spokesperson said that the platform is offering organisations in healthcare (including medical device, medical practice and mental healthcare), supermarket, warehousing and freight delivery, as well as disaster relief non-profits, the ability to post jobs for free on the platform from April 1 to June 30 to find and hire people needed to fill these mission-critical roles.

“For instance, frontline healthcare roles, such as doctors and nurses, will be automatically added to a list of ‘urgent’ jobs, which will be surfaced to LinkedIn members with relevant skills. LinkedIn members that have relevant skills that fit these open roles will receive automatic real-time alerts and emails that inform them so that they can apply immediately,” the spokesperson added.

Avoiding misinformation

However, the increased user engagement on these social networking platforms clearly makes them susceptible to fake news now more than ever. So, what are these firms doing to keep their sites sanitised?

“We have multiple third-party fact-checkers reviewing content across 13 languages,” said Kamath.

He added that ShareChat has instituted algorithmic changes to ensure the trending feed on the platform does not display any content that is verifiably found to be untrue by third-party fact-checkers.

“We have eight independent third-party fact-checking partners covering 11 Indian languages, as well as English. On Facebook and Instagram, we reduce the distribution of content that these partners label as false,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

“If users still see this content appear on their news feeds, we attach a warning label that is misinformation, together with a link to a fact-check article. If a user has already shared misinformation that is subsequently fact-checked, they will get a notification in their inbox alerting them that something that they shared has been fact-checked as false,” the spokesperson added.