Nationalism drive behind spread of fake news in India: BBC research

According to the report, there is also an overlap of fake news sources on Twitter and support networks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

London, Publish Date: Nov 13 2018 12:50AM | Updated Date: Nov 13 2018 12:50AM
Nationalism drive behind spread of fake news in India: BBC researchRepresentational Pic

People in India share fake news stories with nationalistic messages for "nation building" purposes without any attempt at fact-checking a report, according to a BBC research released on Monday.

The findings come from extensive research in India, Kenya, and Nigeria into the way ordinary citizens engage with and spread fake news, the British public broadcaster said.

According to the report, there is also an overlap of fake news sources on Twitter and support networks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 The report, analysing the spread of fake news from the perspective of ordinary citizens, suggests an "overlap between fake news and pro-Modi political activity" in India.

The BBC said its first published study, providing an in-depth understanding of how fake news and disinformation are spreading within encrypted chat apps, reveals that emotion is trumping reason when it comes to sharing news.

"Whilst most discussion in the media has focused on 'fake news' in the West, this piece of research gives strong evidence that a serious set of problems are emerging in the rest of the world where the idea of nation-building is trumping the truth when it comes to sharing stories on social media," said Jamie Angus, Director, BBC World Service Group.

As part of the extensive research using big data and analytics, the BBC found that in Indian Twitter networks, known right wing sources of fake news seemed more closely aligned than left wing sources.

"This allows right leaning fake news to spread faster and wider than left leaning fake news," notes the extensive research carried out by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the three countries.

The research forms part of the BBC Beyond Fake News project, a new international anti-disinformation initiative of  programmes and discussions, which launches this week. The research revealed that fake news was being unwittingly spread by people across India, Kenya, and Nigeria as they forward messages in the hope that someone else will check the truth of the story for them.

"In India people are reluctant to share messages which they think might incite violence, but feel duty bound to share nationalistic messages," the research notes.

"Fake news stories about India's progress, Hindu power and revival of lost Hindu glory are being shared widely without any attempt at fact-checking. In sharing these messages, people feel like they are nation building," it adds.

Whilst nationalism is driving the spread of fake news in India, the research tells a different story in Kenya and Nigeria.

There, fake news stories that get shared largely reflect national anxieties and aspirations, with scams related to money and technology contributing to an estimated third of fake news stories in WhatsApp conversations in Kenya. The latest research is part of the BBC's wider Beyond Fake News initiative, which has been described as a decisive step in its commitment to tackling the spread of disinformation, and the research provides "invaluable insights to aid this work".

"At the heart of this research is the question of why ordinary people are sharing fake news, even while they claim to be worried about the way fake stories spread.

"This report combines in-depth qualitative and ethnographic techniques with digital network analysis and big data techniques to explore the fake news phenomenon in India, Kenya, and Nigeria from multiple angles," said Santanu Chakrabarti, Head of Audience Research, BBC World Service. PTI

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