India ranked highest on the list of countries that will be threatened by the rise of misinformation and false narratives according to the Global Risks Report 2024 published on 10 January. The other countries who are at threat of misinformation and false narratives are El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Ireland, Czechia, Romania, USA and France among others.
The report highlighted various short-term and long-term risks. Over the next two years, misinformation or disinformation was recognised as the biggest out of the ten short and long-term threats. This is likely to cause societal rifts and cause polarisation.
The report is based on the findings of the Global Risks Perception Survey and captures the insights of almost 1500 global experts.
The report recognised economic uncertainty, societal polarisation and the refugee crisis as some of the other crucial short-term risks while the environmental crisis was seen as the most important long-term risk, with the report suggesting that it might reach a point of no return.
The report, which was conducted in cooperation with the Zurich Insurance Group and Marsh McLennan, is a part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Initiative. The purpose of this report is to identify the major risks and figure out the potential ways to deal with them.
Elections are going to be the major catalysts for the rise of false information. Over the next two years, close to three billion are heading into the polls in major countries like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, the UK, and the USA. The report highlights that the widespread use of propaganda and false narratives might undermine the legitimacy of the new governments. This can also lead to civil unrest, protests and hate crimes.
The report, while mentioning the severity of the situation, claimed that misinformation might not only impact the political affiliations of people but also taint their understanding of reality, which might adversely impact social cohesion and mental health. The report also claimed that the definition of truth will become contentious. Some leaders, groups and parties might convert false narratives into legitimate ones.
The report highlighted how YouTube and Twitter agreed to remove links to the BBC documentary related to the 2002 Gujarat riots owing to political pressure from the BJP-led ruling party in India. This also highlights the complicity of social media sites in the political agenda of spreading misinformation. The report also assessed the potential role of AI in the generation and spread of such false information through deepfakes or stock market manipulation.
The report highlighted the possible connection between the rise of misinformation and the degrading Press Freedom Index (PFI) of countries. India ranked 161 out of 180 countries last year in Press Freedom Index.