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?