Karishma Choudhary a 23-year-old postgraduate Geology student was an intern in Radio Kamalvaani 90.4 FM, a community radio station in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. During her internship, a radio program on media literacy on misinformation and fake news was aired for their local audiences, aiming to empower them with approaches and skills to consume information critically, especially online. Karishma was responsible for producing the program. This gave her the opportunity to research the many harmful effects of misinformation as well as available fact-checking techniques.
She wasable to tap the expertise of Dr. Sangita Choudhary, who is both Program Lead at the DataLEADS Foundation and Station Head of Radio Kamalvani. Karishma is now a local advocate for the importance of media and information literacy, and she seeks to limit the spread of mis- and disinformation in her own networks, both online and offline. She has become very cautious about information she receives. She is wary of URLs and always checks the domain name carefully before clicking on any links. She says that she tends not to trust information she comes across unless she is able to verify it. In relation to social media, she says, “Whenever any of my friends puts up a story or post that turns out to be fake, I immediately inform them and ask them to delete it.” Recently, one of her friends posted a story about Delhi airport being sealed due to the spread of the second variant of COVID-19. Karishma took a screenshot of the post and image and checked it on Google reverse image tool. She found that the image was old and was not Delhi airport. She immediately informed her friend and asked her to delete the post and replace it with another informing people that the previously shared post was fake. Karishma also told her friend to avoid sharing such news without first verifying it as it could create unnecessary panic. Karishma also observes that people aren’t easily convinced that information is fake and sometimes ignore others who call it out. But screenshots of fact-checked proof can be persuasive. Another challenge she shares is that people can be more susceptible to scams and misinformation because of low levels of literacy and lack of education.
She makes it a point to educate everyone in her network on the issue, and aims to play a role in curbing the spread of false news and its negative impacts. She says, “In the rural areas, and especially the women there, are mostly illiterate and often become a cause in aiding the spread of misinformation via gossip, etc. Their only source of information is a word of mouth and informal discussions which take place with other women of the village. They are not much aware of the authenticity of the information and have no means of verification of the information they hear, so information keeps on spreading due to their conversations. Unknowingly they become a key point of dissemination of false information if it reaches them.” However, Karishma also realizes that both educated and uneducated people forward information without thinking about its authenticity. Karishma has become the fact-checking champion for all her friends and relatives. She tells others to take action to stop the spread of misinformation by identifying it and asking people to stop sharing it.