As India gets ready for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, WhatsApp, the country’s most-used messaging platform, is pulling out all stops to fight fake news. The app, which has over 200 million daily users in India, has launched advertisements, workshops and campaigns to create awareness on this subject.
As Lok Sabha polls approach, WhatsApp gears up to fight fake news
Experts say this move will not only make the users more aware but also help WhatsApp stay in the good books of the authorities, who have been criticising the app’s operations in India, Business Standard reported.
The Facebook-owned company has launched three short films, which talk about everyday situations and tells users that they have the power to stop fake news. The app has also partnered with New Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to spread a sense of responsibility among users.
This foundation has conducted nearly 30 workshops in tier II and III cities, reaching over 3,000 across eight states, including states that went to polls recently.
Tripura, Assam and Maharashtra will have similar workshops in the next month. After this, Phase II will be launched, which aims to reach 31,000 people in rural areas. “We hope these training workshops will help build an empathetic and conscious community of users who learn to respond rather than react to every message they receive,” Osama Manzar, founder-director of DEF, told the paper.
The government came down heavily upon WhatsApp over how the platform has been enabling fake news, which ultimately led to many violent incidents across India. The app had to put in place many restrictions to check these issues. However, Santosh Desai, MD and CEO of Future Brands, believes they may not be enough and just act like insurance for the platform.
The foundation is satisfied with the response it has received from the workshops. These workshops are crucial for the rural population as they are more prone to misinformation due to lack to alternate news sources.
The workshop also aims to educate people about abuse of data and information shared online. Advertisements on TV, radio and print media are meant to create awareness about the issue of fake news.
The company even launched WhatsApp Misinformation and Social Science Research Awards in July this year. Research scenarios that came in helped the company gather information about approaches being used across the country to solve this India-specific problem.