Let’s just agree – we are all fed up with fake news being spread around social media. Be it politics, cinema, COVID-19, or tech rumors; social networking sites are full of it. But when there’s news of over half a million girls facing the risk of child marriage, it doesn’t reach us.
But why does fake news spread so fast that it becomes a matter of grave concern?
What Does MIT's Study Tell
A 2018 study by researchers from MIT could be the answer to that question. The researchers studied 126,000 rumors and false news stories spread on Twitter for over eleven years.
The team used six independent fact-checking sources to identify whether the stories being studied were genuine. One finding of the study was that humans more commonly retweeted fake news than bots. Even more worrying, the second finding was that fake news traveled faster and reached more people than the truth.
The researchers found out that It took true stories around six times longer to reach 1,500 people, and while truthful stories were rarely shared beyond 1,000 people, the most popular false news could get as many as 100,000 people!
Fake News In India
Research on India’s misinformation by academics from the University of Michigan, published on April 18, 2020, has shown an increase in the tally of fake news stories. The rise came especially after the announcement of the ‘Janata Curfew’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 22, 2020, followed by the pan-India lockdown, two days later, to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
From just two stories in the third week of January 2020, the examples of exposed misinformation rose to 60 stories by the first week of April 2020, according to the research. Though fake news around a cure for COVID-19 decreased in this period, false claims that affected people emotionally developed, the study found.
Specificity Of Fake News
Research on misinformation in India by academics from the University of Michigan, published on April 18, 2020, has shown an increase in the number of exposed stories, especially after the release of the Janata curfew by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 22, 2020, and the nationwide lockdown two days later, to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
According to records till the third week of January 2020, the cases of exposed misinformation rose to 60 by the first week of April 2020 from just two in the research. Though fake stories around a cure for COVID-19 decreased in this period, false claims that affected people emotionally developed, the study found.
Two types of misinformation that caught the researchers’ eye due to their regular rise were stories around culture and government. This design emerged with a visible boost in words around Muslims and COVID-19 and data around police brutality.
By the end of March 2020, the count of fake news stories developed from 15 in the week, starting from March 16 to 33 in the week beginning March 30, with the Tablighi Jamaat event at Nizamuddin Markaz in New Delhi being shown as a vector of the novel coronavirus, according to news articles.
In contrast, the high number of fake stories around disaster messages related to deaths, suicides, and ailments of people in the pandemic or graphic imagery, and COVID-19 cure rose and dropped from 18 in number to 12 the very same period, the study found.