45% people from smaller cities don’t believe in WhatsApp forwards
In recent times, rumours of 'Love Jihad', consumption of beef and child abductions, in particular, have led to several deaths in India
If you could jog your memory, not long ago there were long texts at the end of which would be a humble threat: Forward this message to ten friends lest you want a close one dead, or your life marred by bad luck.
A superstitious India would dutifully oblige, and a chain of forwards followed: from 10 to 10, 100 and 1000.
Interestingly, these messages are still doing the rounds. Don’t believe me? How about that zoomed out picture of India (shot from space) you see every Diwali. There is also the UNESCO Award that India gets every year for the Best National Anthem.
According to a BBC report released in November 2018, people in India were found to be following their ‘nationalistic sentiments’ while forwarding messages; also emotion, not factual correctness, is the driving force. Religion is a close second when it comes to topics that encourage users to hit forward.
As many as 45 per cent people never believe messages they receive on WhatsApp, a sample survey carried out in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in 11 states has found.
The survey by Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) in partnership with WhatsApp was aimed at creating awareness about misinformation and share simple techniques that users can adopt to verify information they receive on their social messaging platforms.
Rumours of Love Jihad, consumption of beef and child abductions, particularly, have led to several deaths in the country.
At my previous workplace, I counted 30 deaths since January 2017: all of them killed by a mob, radicalised by rumours spread over WhatsApp.
This forced WhatsApp to restrict the number of times a message can be forwarded at one go, to five times. And though four out of 10 people knew they could now send and receive fewer messages, another 22 per cent had no clue whether the product change had affected their messaging capacity.
To check misinformation, WhatsApp—the social media platform with over 200 million users in India—also introduced a “Forwarded” label to differentiate the forwarded post from an original one.
The survey found that 49 per cent respondents knew what the label meant while 30.2 per cent had no idea that a “forwarded” label existed.
Videos make fake news believable
Forty-two per cent of the respondents said that they find it easier to believe a piece of news if it is accompanied by a video. Another 39 per cent said they don’t find it hard to believe information if received via plain text, in messages or in newspapers or other platforms.
WhatsApp, in August 2016, rolled out ‘end-to-end encryption’ feature to give its users more privacy and security. In simpler terms, it means that the Facebook-owned social site doesn’t read or save any of the messages sent or received on its platform.
However, 64 per cent respondents said they did not know what an “encrypted” message is; another 14 per cent said that though they had come across the term “encrypted” in media or elsewhere, they weren’t sure if they truly understood the meaning of the term.