Over 81 percent of Delhi's population received fake news through various social media platforms as the Assembly elections neared, according to a new survey by non-profit Social Media Matters and Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics. Facebook and WhatsApp were the leading platforms that were used for the dissemination of misinformation, showed the results.
"The epidemic of fake news is threatening the basic fragment of our democracy. When the voter is in a constant state of cognitive dissonance how are they expected to make an informed choice. As a nation, it has to be our priority to bring an end to it," Amitabh Kumar, Founder, Social Media Matters, said in a statement. The Delhi Assembly elections were held on February 8. The results declared on February 11 saw the Aam Aadmi Party winning 62 of the 70 seats, bringing the Arvind Kejriwal-led government back to power with a massive victory.
The survey "Delhi - #DontBeAFool" was conducted on a sample size of 400 people to interrogate dissemination, penetration and impact of fake news spread via social media on the elections. Rumours spread ahead of the elections included allegations that women participating in the sit-in protests at Shaheen Bagh were being paid to demonstrate against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Moreover, tweets of renowned individuals proved to be volatile before elections. A tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra along with a video clip of AAP leader Amanatullah Khan falsely claimed that Khan was talking about creating a "Sharia" law. About 40 percent of the people who participated in the survey were between 18-25 years of age. While 63 percent of the respondents were males, 36 percent were females and 1 percent were transgenders.
The survey, however, revealed that 60 percent of the population stated that they made efforts to authenticate the news with a search on Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Nearly 62.5 percent of the respondents suggested that they have never been affected by fake news, but 72 percent of them said they knew about people who have been misled by misinformation.