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Social Media Top News Source But Disinformation Galore

A groundbreaking study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveals that major social media platforms collectively raked in nearly $11 billion in ad revenue from U.S. users under 18 in 2022. As concerns about youth mental health intensify, the study sheds light on the financial incentives that may hinder meaningful protective measures.

In India, 64 percent identify social media feeds as the primary source of disinformation and fake news. Paradoxically, despite this awareness, 56% of urban Indians still turn to social media feeds as their top choice for news and information, raising concerns ahead of the 2024 general elections, said the latest UNESCOIpsos survey on the influence of online disinformation.

SOURCES OF DISINFORMATION AND NEWS CONSUMPTION

  • Social media feeds are deemed the widest source of disinformation (64%).
  • Other sources include large groups or online messaging communities (42%), media websites/mobile apps (23%), television (17%), in-person/online discussions (17%), newspapers/magazines (11%), and radio (4%).
  • Despite the awareness of social media’s disinformation risks, 56% of urban Indians prefer it for news, followed by television (42%), newspapers/magazines (37%), media websites/apps (24%), online messaging groups (17%), discussions (7%), and radio (6%).

HATE SPEECHES:

  • 85% of urban Indians frequently encounter online content resembling hate speech.
  • India tops the list across 16 markets, with Bangladesh following closely at 84%.
  • Hate speeches are found in various online spaces targeting individuals or groups based on ethnicity, race, religion, LGBTQ+ status, and disabilities.

VICTIMS OF HATE SPEECH ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Primary victims include LGBT+ individuals (33%), ethnic/racial minorities (28%), women (18%), religious minorities (17%), the poorest members of society (17%), overweight persons (13%), and people with mental health issues (12%).

APPROVAL FOR REGULATIONS

A significant majority (93%) of urban Indians support government and regulatory intervention, requiring social media platforms to implement trust and safety measures during election campaigns.

This sentiment is echoed across the 16 markets surveyed, indicating broad approval for safeguarding the integrity of elections.

Amit Adarkar, CEO of Ipsos India, emphasizes the relevance of the survey ahead of the 2024 general elections. He notes the dual role of social media as a crucial information source and a potential purveyor of disinformation, urging the implementation of guardrails by government and regulators to ensure trust and safety measures during elections.

As India navigates the complex landscape of online information and hate speech, the survey underscores the urgent need for regulatory measures to counter disinformation risks, especially during critical events like general elections. Social media’s power as both an information tool and a potential source of harm highlights the delicate balance authorities must strike to ensure the sanctity of democratic processes.

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