WhatsApp has a huge challenge at hand ahead of 2019 Indian general elections to curb fake news on the messaging platform. We have already seen the impact Social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook have had and the huge role they end up playing in the election campaigns all over the world. WhatsApp with more than 200 million users has a massive responsibility of preventing fake news, rumours and misinformation from spreading on the platform.
Over the last few weeks, Facebook-owned instant messaging company has announced several new rules and guidelines to regulate its platform. For example, labelling forwarded messages and restricting the number of times one card forward a particular message to his or her contacts.
For WhatsApp, finding fake news is just like finding a needle in a haystack and given that WhatsApp always boasts of end-to-encryption, it should be just impossible for WhatsApp to monitor the message’s content. That is why WhatsApp needs our help to know what is real and what is fake.
Recently, a media-skilling start-up PROTO announced a new WhatsApp fake news prevention tip line in India so that you can report fake news directly to the concerned authority. Here’s how you can tip off any fake news or misinformation you might have come across:
WhatsApp fake news prevention tipline number is +91 9643000888. All you need to do is save the contact on your phone. Once you add this number to your address book, refresh your WhatsApp. It is a verified WhatsApp business account.
This tipline of a research project commissioned by WhatsApp. It will create a database to study misleading information spread during elections.
“Thanks for getting in touch! Please confirm that you want to verify this item. Send 1 for 'yes', 2 for 'no'”
For the demonstration purpose, we shared with tipline one story that seemed like fake news to us. Check the screenshots below:
"The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale -- natively in WhatsApp," said PROTO.
Reporting fake news over tipline is easy. However, identifying fake news is not an easy job. That is why WhatsApp offers some tips on how to identify fake news.
Understand the difference between a message and a forwarded message. For example, when you receive a forwarded message from someone, do keep in mind that you are not the only recipient and chances are that message is intended for a much bigger audience. Sometimes that raises enough suspicion especially when you are not so sure who wrote the original message.
“Fake news often goes viral. Even if a message is shared many times, this does not make it true. Don't forward a message because the sender is urging you to do so,” WhatsApp says on its FAQ website.
WhatsApp urges users to verify the content of the message with other sources. So, in case you are not sure if the content of the message is accurate, you can certainly do some research and fact-check on your own. You can also make use of trusted news websites and portals to know where the story originated from.
It would be best if you also refrained from participating in random WhatsApp groups as most of the misinformation is often propagated through these WhatsApp groups. Today, WhatsApp announced the rollout of new group privacy controls to prevent random strangers from adding you to groups without your consent.
According to reports, WhatsApp is working on image search functionality that if put to good use can identify misinformation spread in the form of images.
In February, WhatsApp acknowledged that political parties in India have often attempted to misuse the platform. WhatsApp also issued an ultimatum to Indian political parties to prevent misuse of the platform.