Concern Over ‘Fake News’ Higher Than Exposure Among Users: Study

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Indians seemed to be really concerned over “what is fake and what is real on the internet,” a new study has found.

The “India Digital News Report", published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in association with The Quint, has found that the trust in news media has dipped so much so that people are increasingly worried about being fed disinformation.

What’s more – the low trust level does not pertain to just media on the whole, but also includes the news people personally consume.

Does Political Bias Make A Difference to 'Fake News'?

The study, conducted with 1,013 English-speaking internet users, found that irrespective of political bias, concern over false news and disinformation was similar. The study, however, employs only English-language internet users and is male-skewed, and can, therefore, not be taken as a reflection of the larger society.

Similarly, regardless of their political affiliation, more than two-thirds of the respondents felt that “publishers, platforms and/or the government should do more to address disinformation problems.”

Smartphones Over Newspapers, Social Media is King

While many people have switched to their smartphones over traditional media such as newspapers, even the channels for accessing news has changed. Audiences today resort to using "side-doors" such as search and social media over the website of the publication, the study noted.

But while social media may be a distribution platform for news, many are concerned that expressing political views online could affect how others see them, with a majority worried that doing so could find them in trouble with the authorities.

Need for Sustainable Business Models

Meanwhile, with more publications moving online to satiate the demand for online news, trends in advertising and sustainability are bound to change.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the RISJ and co-author of the report, said, "This will be the end of the era in which Indian news media could expect advertising to more or less alone cover their costs, and means that it is critically important that Indian news media develop new, sustainable business models for online news."

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