Supporters of the BJP, and to a somewhat less extent those of the Congress-led UPA and former UPA supporters, trust news in the media more than English-speaking Indians who identified themselves as non-partisan, while more than half the respondents surveyed stated they are cautious when expressing political opinions online, according to a Reuters survey released on Monday.
Fifty-five per cent of the respondents said they are concerned that open political expression online could get them into trouble with the authorities. Out of English-speakers in India, 41 per cent respondents who claimed to support the BJP said that they trust “most news most of the time”. The corresponding figures are 36 per cent of UPA (and former UPA) supporters and 26 per cent of non-partisans, according to the India Digital News Report, published by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
The report is “based on data from a survey of English-speaking, online news users in India”. While issues of misinformation and online political manipulation are of high concern in both the United States and in India, Americans and English-speaking Indians differ on who should be held responsible, the study found.
English-speaking Indians are concerned with deciphering what is real and what is fake on the Internet at similar rates – roughly 57 per cent – to respondents in the US and Turkey, according to the survey. It found that 45 per cent were exposed to reports that are made up for political or commercial reasons, and half the respondents said they are concerned with this.
However, while only 41 per cent of Americans believe that the government should solve the misinformation problem, 64 per cent of Indians believe so, the survey reported. Roughly similar proportions of Indians and Americans placed the onus on publishers and platforms — at approximately 70 and 60 per cent, respectively.
Nearly half the respondents also said they are concerned “when facts are spun or twisted to push a particular agenda”, and with “poor journalism.” Fewer were concerned with the use of the term “fake news” to discredit news media (45 per cent), and advertisements that look like news reports (41 per cent), the survey pointed out.
The concerns and cautions, however, do not always stop people from sharing reports in general online. Indian users share on social media more than Americans but less than the people of Brazil and Turkey, the survey reported. In a similar trend across the other three surveyed countries (the US, Turkey, and Brazil), more Indians reported getting their news through search and on social media – half the respondents said they received news from social media, and a quarter used it as their main source. While the country’s new-age digital websites reach Indians less than alternative digital sites reach Americans, the names of those sites are more recognisable in India.
The survey found that most respondents (74 per cent) did not know that algorithms decide the order of their feeds, and 18 per cent believed an editor or journalist at the social media company concerned makes those decisions. When deciding whether to click a post, Indian users surveyed were found to rely on social cues such as who posted a report more than people from other countries surveyed. Of WhatsApp users, 40 per cent were found to have forwarded a news story in the previous one week.
Compared to the other countries surveyed, more respondents in India said they use social media such as WhatsApp (52 per cent), Instagram (26 per cent), and Facebook Messenger (16 per cent) for news. Five per cent used SnapChat and 18 per cent Twitter, according to the survey.