The Politics Of Misinformation In India: Prevalence, Mechanisms, Solutions

Sumitra Badrinathan, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

What is the scope of the misinformation problem in India, and what kinds of solutions can we implement to improve the quality of information processing? This dissertation explores this question by gathering original data collected over 3 years through three empirical projects that include a diversity of methods -- face-to-face surveys, online experiments, field interventions –- as well as a range of populations in the country, from highly-educated and English-speaking internet users, to those gaining access to mobile phones for the first time. These studies also cover different times centered around the pivotal 2019 general election in India: descriptive data was collected in the year before the election, the field intervention was rolled out during the election, and online experiments were conducted after the election. Overall, the dissertation sheds light on the role of new and developing media in India in fostering novel channels for the communication of information and misinformation, describes the prevalence of fake news and the mechanisms through which it spreads, and offers solutions through field interventions and experimental treatments aimed at reducing the uptake of political misinformation.