WhatsApp to Launch Fact-Check Service in India to Fight Fake News


WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging apps among Indians and as a result, it has been used to circulate a lot of misinformation. Even measures such as indicating that a message is forwarded don't help, so the company decided to up the ante a bit more. Today, WhatsApp announced in a statement that it is working with an Indian startup Proto to build a database of rumours. The move comes at a crucial time, as India is due to hold its elections later this year. This 'misinformation' database will be complemented by a “tipline” wherein users can submit messages to have it classified as true, false, misleading or disputed. The company said that Dig Deeper Media and Meedan are also helping Proto to develop the verification and research frameworks for India.

If a user wishes to verify something they received on Whatsapp, they can submit it to +919643000888. The service is called “Checkpoint Tipline”, and once a piece of information is received, Proto’s verification centre will cross-check the information and tell the user if it is legitimate, fake or unverified. The centre can review rumours in the form of a picture, video links and text and can cover a total of five languages including English. The pre-election period is host to a lot of blatantly false rumours. Proto is planning to source such rumours from external organisations and verify their legitimacy.

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Some of the other measures that WhatsApp is using the combat the fake news menace include limiting the number of users that a message can be forwarded to five, labelling forwarded messages are clearly labelled as “forwarded” and adding a 'frequently forwarded' label to texts that are forwarded more than four times. These measures are far from foolproof but good to have nonetheless.

Reuters attempted to test the 'Checkpoint Tipline' by forwarding a message with false information to it but failed to receive a response. It could be likely due to the service being relatively new and hence unable to respond to their text. There's no doubt that Indian WhatsApp has a fake news problem. But, we circle back to the same argument every time such a measure is implemented. Who verifies the verifier?

News Source: Economic Times