Misinformation has changed our relationship with technology for a long period of time. However, with Covid-19 entering our lives at the end of 2019, there was a boom in misinformation and disinformation on various social media platforms and communication channels. This project focuses on understanding the causes behind it as well as coming up with possible solutions for the problem.
UX Designer and Researcher
4 Months Pre-Thesis
(September - December 2021)
My Key Contributions
As a part of my final year Pre-Thesis, we were given the topic of ‘Understanding Technology after the Covid-19 pandemic’. After conducting my initial research, I chose to look at the conveyance of information to the public and specifically how misinformation has affected our society after the pandemic.
Based on the above questions, I conducted intensive secondary research. Some of the themes that emerged from the secondary research were :
The initial confusion during the pandemic and how people took advantage of it.
Disinformation and its impacts
The difference in the spread of misinformation between various platforms
The Age Factor
Fear Psychosis and its impact
In order to further understand misinformation during Covid-19 and its impacts, I spoke to 4 experts in the fields of healthcare, research and design. Each interview was conducted with a semi-structured questionnaire
After the interviews, an important point that came up was to understand the user engagement algorithms and end to end encryption systems of various social media platforms. By conducting further research on these topics, I picked the communication platform Whatsapp to be my key focus.
Whatsapp is one of the most popular communication platforms with over 380 million users in India alone.
Increase in the volume of misinformation on Whatsapp at an alarming rate, from fake articles to fraudulent numbers.
Whatsapp has a substantial number of users from various age groups while open social media platforms have more users from the younger generations.
With Whatsapp’s end to end encryption preventing access to chats, how can the spread of misinformation further be curbed?
In order to understand Whatsapp users, their needs, wants and pain points, I conducted interviews with 4 users of different age groups. Each interview was conducted online with a Semi- Structured Questionnaire.
The following user pain points were identified from the interviews :
Age : 47
Frequent User of Whatsapp
Age : 15
Uses Whatsapp only for academic purposes
Age : 47
Uses Whatsapp only for personal life and for some classes
Age : 75
Uses Whatsapp to communicate with friends and family
Very difficult to convince extremely biased individuals to stop sending fake news.
No immediate fact checking option available.
Hassle to use fact checking sites
Unable to differentiate between fake and real from screenshotted news from other social media platforms due to lack of use of other platforms
Ideation and Narrowing Down
After understanding the user pain points and Whatsapp’s current measures against misinformation, I began my ideation process.
Describe your image
Describe your image
Whatsapp Check is a system through which users have access to a database of articles that have been going around on Whatsapp that have been debunked along with which users can also get any articles they receive with the 'forwarded many times' label fact checked with a bot chat.
On the main home screen of Whatsapp, users can click on the green button at the top right of the screen to access the database of fact checked information.
If the users would like to get an article verified that has not been found on the database, they can click on the green chat button at the bottom right of the database screen.
Upon clicking the green chat button, users will be directed to a bot chat where they can interact with the bot and send any article they would like to get fact checked.
The users will then receive an estimated time by which they will receive their result.
Finally, a message stating whether the article was found across other databases and if the article has been bound, the article will be flagged and prevented from being shared further.
If the article isn't found, the user will be asked if they would like this article to be forwarded to Whatsapp customer officials to be fact checked and sent back at a later time.
Being in the exact same starting position along with 7.8 billion people in terms of knowledge about the coronavirus, it was a very confusing and stressful experience as a student. Not knowing where to go next, trying to sort through screens and screens of information and attempting to differentiate right from wrong while receiving various absurd articles from friends and family members on a daily basis puts me right at the center of my project.
Coming from a “tech savvy” generation and still facing such a high load of misinformation naturally made me question how the other generations - especially the older generations - dealt with this issue and what the impact was on them. This project showed me various perspectives on the problem and tested my creative abilities to make changes on such a widely used platform. I would've loved the time to polish the final ideas further if given the time.