Arushi Saxena

MDE

#EkMinute Project: A Social Experiment to Promote Smarter Mass Forwarding on WhatsApp India

Advised by Paola Sturla (GSD) and Fawwaz Habbal (SEAS)

We all have one older person in our life who means well but loves to forward clickbait. Specifically in the South Asian subcontinent, WhatsApp is an integral form of social communication and news exchange. However, digital and media literacy has not kept pace with the rate of social media proliferation. As a result, WhatsApp users of all ages and educational backgrounds are alarmingly susceptible to the spread of misinformation and fake news. The EkMinute (“one minute”) Project is a social experiment to minimize mass forwarding of fake news via WhatsApp in India. The initial target audience is Hindi- and English-speaking adults age 40+ residing in high-population Indian cities.

EkMinute has designed a series of creative and satirical WhatsApp messages (ranging from light-hearted to patriotic in tone) leveraging the visual vocabulary of popular Indian WhatsApp forwards. Messages discuss the harms of mass forwarding, attributes of fake news, and tips about fact-checking. They include familiar Indian motifs to catch readers’ attention and are designed to be forwarded. This campaign aims to understand users’ appetite for and interaction with digital literacy concepts while testing the promise of low-touch but scalable behavior change. Can beneficial forwards ever go viral as harmful forwards?

The logo for the EkMinute project, a digital literacy campaign by GSD student Arushi Saxena.
Large black text on white background. The first word is the hashtag “#EkMinute” highlighted in bright yellow above the word “Project”

An Instagram post from the EkMinute Project introducing a crowdsourced campaign in India.

A WhatsApp forward in Hindi and English that describes attributes of fake news forwards, showing an illustration of a person with the text bubble, “Don’t spread fake news like Malaria!”

A poster in Hindi and English that explains how to identify fake news and fact-check WhatsApp forwards.

A two-page Instagram-style animated GIF with first image saying “Do not swipe” and the second image discussing the harms of catchy forwards and COVID misinformation.