“I trust anything Mamaji sends; he knows a lot about the world,” a Mumbai girl told a BBC team that conducted a three-nation study on fake news.
And a youth from Vijayawada wondered: “Why would my friend send me a message if it were fake?”
In a study co-funded with Google and Twitter, BBC wanted to “dig deep into human psychology” as to why people ‘forward’ fake messages in Kenya, Nigeria and India.
In India, the study was conducted in 10 cities and included in-depth interviews with 40 individuals to understand the fake news menace, which is creating havoc. The study found that it is the sender that matters, not the source.
The study offered interesting insights into people’s habit of forwarding messages that they receive on various social-media platforms.
“People can’t and don’t consume all the news they receive online. Some just share it without verification. Unverified messages go viral, and can result in lynchings,” said GS Rammohan, Editor of BBC’s Telugu Services.
He was citing the recent example of mob lynchings across the country after a doctored video from Pakistan about child lifters went viral.
BBC has organised a multi-city programme on fake news, inviting technology enthusiasts, bloggers and journalists to sensitise them to fake news and introduce them to tools to identify them. Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of fact-checker start-up Factly, feels that a majority of the people who forward messages do it without malice. “What they do is to spread misinformation. The real issue is with disinformation, produced deliberately by some people,” he says.
“There is a lot of incentive in producing it. Money is a big driver. Lack of fear of the law and absence of trust in the mainstream media are other reasons for the spurt in the spread of fake news,” he points out.
Citing incidents of poor response from social-media platforms to queries and complaints, Rakesh Reddy feels that such platforms must own up responsibility and show respect for the law of the land.