WhatsApp ramps up user education drive to curb fake news
WhatsApp partners with Delhi-based NGO, Digital Empowerment Foundation to train community leaders in 10 states
New Delhi:At a time when WhatsApp and the government are at loggerheads over compliance with Indian laws and the mechanism to ensure traceability of fake messages, the social media giant has ramped up its user education campaign to curb the spread of deadly rumours.
Facebook-owned messaging service on Wednesday said that it has partnered with Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to train community leaders in around 10 states across the country where there have been worrisome cases of violence and where there will be state polls before the end of the year.
There had been a spate of incidents of lynching in the country connected to fake messages on social media platforms, mainly through WhatsApp. A number of murders were reported from several states, including Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tripura, Jharkhand and West Bengal, in the last one month.
The training will encourage WhatsApp users to be more open towards other communities, to enable them to differentiate between opinion and facts, and to inculcate a habit of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family, said WhatsApp in a statement.
“We at WhatsApp and DEF hope these training workshops will help build an empathetic and conscious community of WhatsApp users who learn to respond rather than react to every message they receive,” said Osama Manzar, founder, director of DEF.
DEF will incorporate this new training as part of their network of over 30,000 grassroots community members in seven states.
“Our goal is to help keep people safe by creating greater awareness about fake news and empowering users to help limit its spread,” said Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager at WhatsApp.
The social media giant also said that it will start a radio campaign this week to create awareness about misinformation circulated on its platform and urge users to be cognizant of the messages they receive and be mindful before forwarding.
“WhatsApp stands committed in its efforts to address these issues jointly with civil society, stakeholders and the government,” WhatsApp added in its statement.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp circulated a new video on Facebook explaining the importance of the “forward” label, and asked users to cross check facts when they are not sure about who created the original message.
On 20 July, WhatsApp launched a test to limit forwarded messages to more than five chats at once. Also, the quick forward button next to media messages was disabled. On 3 July, the social media giant rolled out a new feature to clearly mark forwarded messages.
Last week, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad urged WhatsApp chief executive officer Chris Daniels to devise ways to trace the origin of fake messages, set up a local corporate entity and appoint a grievance officer to address complaints to curb the spread of deadly rumours.
In response to the government’s demand, WhatsApp said that building traceability would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse.
As of February 2017, there were more than 200 million monthly active WhatsApp users in India. There are over 1.5 billion users in the world.