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54% of Indians Get Their Facts From Social Media: Oxford University Press Study

70% of Indians trust politicians to help verify information while in other countries, the number was less than half.

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Despite rampant misinformation online, 54 percent of Indians use social platforms as a source of factual information, a study by the Oxford University Press suggests.

This figure is in stark contrast with the UK, where 16 percent of respondents claimed to use social media to find factual information. Worldwide, it's almost four in ten people.

The study, called The Matter of Fact, surveyed 5,000 people across the UK, US, India, South Africa and Mexico. It also took into account views of academics, journalists and educators, and set context by stating that only 59.5 percent of the human population uses the internet.

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Most Indians Trust Politicians to Verify Information

The study also revealed that the attitude towards politicians in India is starkly different than in other countries. More than 70 percent of respondents in India said that they relied on politicians as a way to determine if information was fact or fiction.

In other countries, less than half the respondents felt this way.

In India, 48 percent of respondents trusted WhatsApp conversations as a source of factual information. Wikipedia is also a popular source, with 45 percent of Indians relying on the site for factual information.

Three fourth of respondents, according to the study, were confident that the information they shared from social media was true. Two-thirds said they turn to Google or other search engines.

Increased Trust in Experts, Declining Trust in News

The coronavirus pandemic had a significant effect on how people viewed media accuracy. It made 74 percent of respondents globally more cautious regarding the accuracy of the information they consume, and there is also increased trust in experts. Almost 8 in 10 people said that they would trust expert opinion regarding whether something was the truth.

Eight in ten people also said that universities and academic institutions had an important role in identifying whether something was true or not.

Further regarding people’s fact-checking patterns, the study revealed that 80 percent of people globally said they consult more than one source to understand if something is true, and believe all truths should be backed up by solid evidence.

However, just under 40 percent of respondents admitted that they were not sure how to tell what information was true, highlighting an uncertainty regarding fact-checking and verification of information.

“With an ever-increasing number of sources to turn to for information, from books to academic texts to digital channels, and so many answers available at the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that our research presents a global picture of confusion,” said Nigel Portwood, the CEO of Oxford University Press.

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The study also examined people’s attitudes towards news media as a source of fact.

35 percent of people globally said they relied on established news sources for facts, including news websites, but the study also cited a Reuters report that said 29 percent of respondents avoid news because of declining trust in these organisations.

People still turn to books and encyclopedias for information, however the number is not very high. Only 17 percent of respondents globally said that this was a source they used.

Talking to family and friends, also a traditional means of learning information, is still popular. Four in ten people said that they had learnt a new fact this way in the last five years.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Social Media   research   Fake News 

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