WhatsApp is the primary medium for the spread of news and rumours as well which are shared in the form of images and videos to different public-political WhatsApp groups in India that gives rise to misinformation. This was found in a study titled as “Images and misinformation in political groups: evidence from WhatsApp in India,”which was conducted by two MIT researchers by the end of 2018 and mid-2019 where there were events like Pulwamaattack, the Balakot Air Strike and the Lok Sabha elections.
Kiran Garimella, researcher of MIT said that after collecting a large dataset of images from the public- political WhatsApp group in India, and annotated the sample of these images with the help of journalists. Based on the annotations it has found that these images are misinformation which makes up to 13% of all images that has been shared on the public- political WhatsApp group.
According to their study, there are 3 major categories image that contains misinformation. Those are,
- Image without connection: this means an old image which has been using out of context and re-shared.
- Image Creation: Majorly photoshopped images
- Memes: Mainly use of fake- quotes actively imputed to remarkable (read famous) people.
The Quint’s team has debunked various such images in the past where either old pictures were misused to spread misinformation or images are taken out of context, or photo shopped images were circulated or memes were passed off as news. Based on the findings, machine learning models to detect misinformation, though the results sometimes appear promising, these models are not robust to change over time.
Recently during Indo- China war, several such images were circulated on the internet and especially over the public- political WhatsApp group that avers about the casualties on the Chinese side and higher number of casualties on the Indian side. However most of such pictures were unrelated and old.
Image taken from the Quint’s Webqoof team (This image was found to be old and had nothing to do with the Indo-China standoff. (Original Source: Facebook/Screenshot)
Similar such trends of sending bizarre pictures have been noticed during the anti- CAA, and Ayodhya verdict, and even during the annulment of Article 370 and many such other major events.
Image is taken from the Quint’s Webqoof team (original source- Whatsapp/alerted by The Quint)