WhatsApp to launch campaign in India to tackle spread of fake news

WhatsApp is taking steps to reduce the spread of fake news on its platform in India with the launch of a radio campaign that will run across 46 Hindi speaking stations.

The move comes after the Facebook-owned messaging service was rapped by authorities after “irresponsible and explosive messages” on its platform about child kidnappers led to mob lynchings across India.

The Times of India reported how the campaign will advise users to check the authenticity of messages before forwarding them and to report information they regard as false and provocative.

Indians will also be warned that spreading false information could have serious implications.

WhatsApp, which has around 200m users in India, flagged in July its intention to launch a campaign after the government struggled to contain the spread of fake news which led to  lynchings and several vigilante murders.

Among the problems facing the company – and authorities – is that people receive messages on WhatsApp from friends and family meaning the content is more likely to be believed. There is also less inclination to check the varacity of the information.

WhatsApp has declined to make changes to the way it encrypts messages – as demanded by the government so to make messages more traceable – but has taken steps to allow users to block people more easily.

The platform said it has tied up with local organisations to prevent the spread of false information and earlier this year said users will be restricted to forwarding messages to 20 people in an attempt to crack down on the viral spread of hateful misinformation.

In India it was limited to five people.

Responding to the lynchings, WhatsApp said: “We’re horrified by the violence in India, and we’ve announced number of different product changes to help address these issues. It’s a challenge which requires an action by civil society, government and tech companies.”


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