WhatsApp India: Messaging platform launches tip line for choice misinformation
The company offers its 200 million users in India a new tip line where they can submit messages, pictures or videos that they will have checked. A "verification center" corresponds to the user, indicating whether the information is true, false, misleading or disputed.
The Facebook-owned messaging app has developed the tip line, known as Checkpoint, in partnership with an Indian startup. It will be available in English and four Indian languages - Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.
WhatsApp hopes to use the new service to extend its fight against false news during a election that is seen as a key test for whether social media platforms can prevent the spread of rumors and hoaxes.
"The challenge of viral misinformation requires more collaborative effort and cannot be solved by a single organization alone," the company said in a statement Tuesday. WhatsApp, Facebook ( FB ) and other social networks like Twitter ( TWTR ) several steps to prevent their platforms from being used to spread misinformation during India's election, the world's largest exercise in democracy. They have limited message forwarding, banned counterfeit accounts, labeled political advertising and affiliates with fact-checking websites.
However, with 900 million people eligible to vote and more than 560 million Internet users, technical companies can fight for a lost battle.
Their jobs are being made even more difficult by politicians who even spread misinformation. WhatsApp warned political parties earlier this year that it would block their accounts if engaged in suspicious activity.
Facebook did just that on Monday. It took down hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts associated with India's ruling party and its greatest opposition to what it means as "coordinated unauthorized behavior."
WhatsApp itself was highlighted in the middle of the country's fake news debate last year, as viral hoaxes scattered on its platform were blamed for more than one dozen lynchings.
The misinformation is only expected to get worse at the start of the poll, which begins on April 11 and runs for about five weeks.
WhatsApp said the tipline initiative would "contribute to the security of the election … and discourage people from sharing rumors that do not actually have grounds," it added.
It would also create a database of rumors of studying misinformation during elections, the company added.