WhatsApp’s COVID-19 misinformation problem fueled amid second wave


New Delhi: Besides crippling the medical healthcare infrastructure of India, the second wave of COVID-19 also came with a fake news plague on the internet, according to a recently conducted survey by doctors from Rochester, New York, and Pune, India.  

The scientific study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research a peer-reviewed journal, pointed out that ~30% of Indians relied on WhatsApp to receive information around COVID-19. 

Around 30% of Indians fact-checked less than 50% of messages before forwarding, the survey revealed, adding that just 13% of the respondents never fact-checked messages before sharing to others. 
 
However, only a handful of WhatsApp users were responsible for the bulk of forwarding of both correct and fake information around COVID-19. The survey said that in a day only 14% of respondents forwarded three or more messages to others. Just 5% shared nine or more messages. 

In terms of age groups, Indians over 65 were somehow more likely to get misinformation. Unfortunately, the age group was also more likely to believe in the fake messages and even to respond to them. 

24-27% of respondents admitted that they had considered using herbal, ayurvedic or homoeopathic COVID-19 remedies while 7-8% actually tried them to battle the disease. Users under the age of 25 were the least likely to receive fake messages, the study noted.



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