According to research carried out by BBC nationalism is the driving force behind the fake news in India. A rising tide of nationalism in India is driving ordinary citizens to spread fake news, according to BBC research.
The research found that facts were less important to some than the emotional desire to bolster national identity. Social media the analysis suggested that right-wing networks are much more organised than on the left, pushing nationalistic fake stories further.
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 in the three countries.
“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.
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 all three countries, the distrust of mainstream news outlets pushed people to spread information from alternative sources, without attempting to verify it, in the belief that they were helping to spread the real story. People were also overly confident in their ability to spot fake news.
The sheer flood of digital information being spread in 2018 is worsening the problem. Participants in the BBC research made little attempt to query the original source of fake news messages, looking instead to alternative signs that the information was reliable.
These included the number of comments on a Facebook post, the kinds of images on the posts, or the sender, with people assuming WhatsApp messages from family and friends could be trusted and sent on without checking.
The findings come from extensive research in India, Kenya, and Nigeria into the way ordinary citizens engage with and spread fake news.
Participants gave the BBC extensive access to their phones over a seven-day period, allowing the researchers to examine the kinds of material they shared, whom they shared it with and how often.
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.
Widespread sharing of false rumours on WhatsApp has led to a wave of violence in India, with people forwarding on fake messages about child abductors to friends and family out of a sense of duty to protect loved ones and communities.
According to a separate BBC analysis, at least 32 people have been killed in the past year in incidents involving rumours spread on social media or messaging apps.