Importance of Fact-Checking To Create Healthy Information Eco System

The World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risk Report states misinformation and disinformation is the top global risk over the short term of two years. As per the report, India will be facing the highest risk of misinformation and disinformation among all countries. 

The report studied at different risks countries might face in the next ten years, like changes in technology, economic issues, climate change, and conflicts. The report found that India is especially vulnerable to false information spreading. 

The World Health Organization looked at the proportion of health misinformation on social media, and found that it reached up to 51% in posts associated with vaccines, up to 28.8% in posts associated with COVID-19, and up to 60% in posts related to pandemics. Among YouTube videos about emerging infectious diseases, 20–30% were found to contain inaccurate or misleading information. India was the biggest source of COVID-19 misinformation, with one in every six pieces of fake information coming from the country.

These findings underscore the widespread prevalence and concerning impact of false information. This is especially harmful when the misinformation is related to public health and other major issues. 

Given the easy and rapid distribution of information through various digital platforms, the concept of fact-checking has emerged as an important tool in combating the far-reaching spread of false information. 

As we celebrate International Fact-Checking Day, it’s important to recognize the role that fact-checking plays in building a healthy information ecosystem.

Why is fact-checking so important? 

With information overload – an infodemic – it is very challenging to distinguish fact from fiction. And the consequences of misinformation are deep and dangerous – from eroding trust in institutions, to fueling polarization, to undermining democratic processes, and even leading to violence. 

To protect ourselves as well as others, fact-checking becomes increasingly important. Fact-checking helps to separate fact from fiction, ensuring that we’re not fooled by false claims or manipulated by those who spread them. It allows us to make informed decisions and question what we see or hear.

Fact-checking makes us to question sources, verify information, and think critically about the content we see online. We, as fact-checkers, can equip readers with the tools necessary to stay protected in the complex information landscape. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, fact-checkers debunked myths and conspiracy theories, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health and safety.

Fact-checking plays a crucial role in ensuring the integrity of elections. It also helps to lessen the influence of disinformation campaigns targeted at manipulating public opinion and swaying election results. 

As India is heading for general election, fact-checkers can provide voters with accurate and reliable information. By scrutinizing political claims, verifying the authenticity of news reports, and debunking false narratives, fact-checking organizations help voters make informed decisions. They can hold political candidates and parties accountable for their statements and tall claims. 

Media Literacy As A Tool

In the face of the staggering number of internet users (825.30 million) and the low digital literacy rate in India, fighting misinformation may seem like an impossible challenge. However, there is an effective solution: media literacy. 

By prioritizing media literacy education, we can empower people to become critical consumers of information, hence stopping the tide of misinformation at its source. Media literacy equips individuals with the skills to recognize misinformation, question its validity, and refrain from sharing it further.

Recently, Fact Crescendo conducted media literacy workshops for senior citizens in remote parts of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra under the ‘Sach Ke Saathi’ initiative by Vishwas News. We educated the participants about digital frauds and scams, voting awareness, and spotting fake news. By educating people at the grassroots level, we can build a culture of critical thinking and responsible media consumption, laying the foundation for a more truth-driven society. 

Just as when a flame ignites, it has the potential to spread rapidly, engulfing everything in its path. However, by simply removing one matchstick from the equation, we can prevent the fire from spreading further. Similarly, by educating people about the importance of verifying information ones, we can effectively halt the spread of misinformation.

As we celebrate International Fact-Checking Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to seeking the truth in the face of misinformation. By supporting fact-checking initiatives, promoting critical thinking skills, we can build a healthier, more truthful information ecosystem.

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Media Literacy Team
Media Literacy Team
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