(Reuters)
(Reuters)

Too little too late

WhatsApp’s initiatives aimed at curbing fake news seem to be well-intended, but their efficacy in safeguarding Indian elections from its ill effects is still in doubt

WhatsApp’s initiatives aimed at curbing fake news seem to be well-intended, but their efficacy in safeguarding Indian elections from its ill effects is still in doubt, sadly. Its latest announcement ensures users won’t be added to groups without their permission and they would get to choose which chat to join, if any. This shift to an opt-in protocol prevents masked political activists from mass spamming phone numbers swiped off a database. The app has also launched a fact-check referral service for users.

With more than 300 million users in India, WhatsApp is a big battleground for politics, with rampant efforts being made to sling mud at opponents via fake video grabs and fraud images. Having them all fact-checked is tedious. Most will likely escape scrutiny. Also, if users retain their option of accepting all group invites as a default setting, then the opt-in feature achieves little. Many users may prefer the convenience of default settings over having to vet every group invite. Besides, with elections now so close and standards of civility being dropped even at public rallies, the fight against divisive rhetoric and malicious lies looks harder and harder.

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