Little Yadav
May 16, 2024

Truth be told: How India's Gen Z is handling the fake news epidemic

A recent survey by The 23 Watt reveals concerning trends: Fake news is widespread, and 91% of Gen Z in the capital region believe it can influence voting decisions.

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

In the digital age, the way people consume news and information has fundamentally shifted from traditional outlets like newspapers and news channels to digital platforms. However, this shift has been marred by the pervasive issue of 'fake news.' The deluge of information makes it difficult for individuals to discern between authentic and fake, a particularly alarming issue during election seasons due to its potential to influence voters.

The 23 Watts, a communication consulting firm, conducted a survey titled 'Truth be told' targeting Gen Z in Delhi-NCR. The survey, which included over 1,200 respondents under the age of 25, explored how this demographic perceives, consumes, and navigates misinformation. It focused on three main areas: The impact of misinformation, experiences with fake news, and perceptions regarding responsibility for the fake news epidemic. The methodology was verified by Vijay Ganesan, a former director at Kantar.

According to the findings, a staggering 90% of respondents noted an increase in fake news during elections, while 91% believe fake news can influence voting decisions. A significant 80% reported changes in their opinions due to fake news, and 57% feel it targets public figures and political issues. Despite 95% attempting to verify news, 45% have shared unverified news later found to be fake, revealing the complexities of dealing with misinformation.

Experts provide deep insights into these behaviors. Ganesan highlighted that the report sheds light on the social media behaviors, mindset, and information-sharing patterns of Delhi's youth. "This research explores these themes in detail with an ideal balance with the quantitative approach needed for a piece of reliable empirical evidence and equally complemented by in-depth insights unlocked through qualitative research to understand motivations and behaviors," Ganesan said. "It is an evolving area of research, and this is an attempt to demystify the larger community. I am sure it will unlock more and more such unknowns in its immediate future iterations."

Adding to this, Tarundeep Singh, chief growth officer at The 23 Watts, noted that Gen Z, born into technology and raised with information at its fingertips, is redefining political movements, religion, pop culture, and national events. “With fake news being at the forefront of all major happenings in the nation, we wanted to understand this shifting focus. The core of our effort is to map and mine the minds of the loud and proud Gen Z to understand the lasting shift in news consumption and the spread of misinformation.”

Prashant Mali, a cyber law expert and a data protection lawyer from Bombay High Court, emphasised the legal ramifications of spreading fake news. “Fake news is now aided by artificial intelligence, which makes deepfake videos and audios possible," Mali explained. "Even though fake news may be made by interested parties, they are spread, knowingly or unknowingly, by the common man and this is due to a lack of awareness. People need to be warned that spreading fake news is also a criminal offense as they are responsible as much as the ones who make it as they are abetting the spread of disinformation.”

The call for government action also grows louder in the survey, with 48% demanding tighter policies, 16% appealing for education campaigns, and 15% advocating for national fact-checking as a solution, the importance of digital literacy has never been more critical. The Delhi youth are arming themselves with knowledge to navigate these uncertainties, reinforcing the need for awareness campaigns and initiatives to combat the tides of fake news in an unprecedented year for elections.

Campaign India

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