It was unimaginable for people to accept the fact that the 2016 US elections were not won by the Republicans and President Donald Trump but fake account holders in Russia who were spreading misinformation.
This is one instance where social media was able to penetrate a country’s politics. If we think that happening to a country like the United States, then we would be terrified to see what is happening in India.
In India, Whats App has become a hotspot of fake news. According to a report from the Indian news site Financial Express, fabricated reports on WhatsApp of child abductions by immigrants have led to at least two attacks that resulted in innocent people being beaten by mobs and hanged.
India is estimated to have more WhatsApp users than any other country, with about 200 million people using it at least once a month, out of a total of 1.5 billion monthly active global users, and the rate of adoption is still climbing, driven by the declining cost of smartphones and cellular data plans. The same phenomenon has been seen in Indonesia and Latin America.
Distrust of mainstream news outlets pushed people to spread information from alternative sources and through alternative mediums such as memes, images, and stories with minimal text, without attempting to verify it, in the belief that they were helping to spread the real story.
This is because of the deluge of information available online—people are preferring that which is easy to grasp and understand.
People look to the number of comments on a Facebook post, the kinds of images on the posts, or the sender, for verification of the veracity of stories, with people assuming WhatsApp messages from family and friends could be trusted and sent on without checking.