Factcheckers are staring at a busy 2018 as the scale and complexity of misinformation is set to increase. We bring you a list of 10 trends we expect to see in India and in the rest of the world in 2018.
1. State election campaigns will rely heavily on fake news and pave the way for 2019 Lok Sabha polls:
With Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram prepping for assembly elections in 2018, social media teams of political parties will go for the jugular in attacking rivals and drumming up support for their parties. As seen in Gujarat, the campaigns are expected to be divisive and nasty. Tampered videos, fake quotes and revisionist accounts of history from these states can be expected. (See examples here and here)
2. More newsrooms in India will fall for fake news
We expect to see more newsrooms in India falling prey to fake news as they rely more on UGC (user generated content) such as mobile videos. This is expected to be aggravated by ‘web desks’ that chase viral content and do not verify information before publishing. Click here to read more.
3. Indian companies will need to be vigilant about fake news
Contrary to the perception that fake news only impacts middle-aged Indians addicted to WhatsApp; it also affects businesses. Even government departments have taken to Twitter to dispel misinformation concerning them. Indian corporates will have to be more than aware of what’s being said about their brand on social media. See examples here and here.
4. Expect fake news in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack
2017 was the first time when factcheckers came across bogus missing people posts from retweet hungry trolls in the hours following a terrorist attack. Fake posts about the identity, religion and political leanings of the attacker have sadly become all too common now. There is almost never a second shooter. See example of fake news after terrorist attacks here and here.
5. Cyber-security attacks will provide an opportune time to spread fake news
Remember ‘WannaCry’? The digital extortion ransomware. 2018 might see a repeat of hoaxes and fake messages that accompany a global cyber security attack as computing systems across the globe become more interconnected. This is expected to be compounded by hoaxes and misinformation around Artificial Intelligence. Click here to read more.
6. The trend of spreading fake news during natural disasters will continue
The phenomenon of spreading fake news during a crisis is neither new nor will it end this year. We expect to see more recycled videos and hoaxes during natural disasters in 2018. See examples of this here and here.
7. Fake news around religious and ethnic minorities
The resurgence of populism in many parts of the world will mean that ethnic and religious minorities will continue to be the brunt of fake news in 2018. Tech companies which are all too aware of the problem but wary of being seen as pro-liberal will have to think of new ways to crack down on accounts that indulge in such inflammatory posts. Read more.
8. Templated Posts On Social Media
— Trendsmap India (@TrendsmapIndia) December 27, 2017
Template tweets are the grey area between being not exactly ‘fake news’ and not a 100% kosher either. The trend of templated posts (the same tweet copied by a number of accounts) is expected to continue in 2018. Not just political parties but even Indian companies have started relying on ‘influencer marketing’ to build momentum on social media. Read more about it here.
9. Fake news will go hyperlocal
We expect to see more fake news in native Indian languages as tech companies and cellphone makers make their platforms compatible with non-English speakers. Most of these messages are recycling old email chain forwards but are also increasingly inventing new hoaxes. Click here to read more.
10. The cycle of sharing fake news from WhatsApp to Twitter to Facebook will continue in India
The flow of fake news is expected to continue its pattern of originating from WhatsApp progressing to Twitter and lastly Facebook. WhatsApp has gained notoriety and become synonymous with fake news because of the anonymity its encryption offers making it impossible to trace the source of misinformation. Click here to read more.
Karen Rebelo works as an investigative reporter, fact-checker and a copy-editor at BOOM. Her specialization includes spotting and debunking fake images and viral fake videos. Karen is a former Reuters wires journalist and has covered the resources sector in the UK and the Indian stock market and private equity sector. She cut her teeth as a prime-time television producer doing business news shows.