WhatsApp, Facebook put up more defensive measures in the face of increasing fake news

WhatsApp, Facebook put up more defensive measures in the face of increasing fake news
Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Nitin Gadkari during a Bike Rally as part of his elections campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Nagpur on Wednesday April 03rd, 2019BCCL

  • WhatsApp has introduced a ‘tip line’ number that users can report misinformation.
  • Facebook is also combating misinformation by pulling down 687 pages that exhibited ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’.
  • But, by the time companies realise that fake news is going viral, it often already reaches a substantial amount of people.
Social networking platforms in India have been told by the Indian government to be vigilant in their measures to curb fake news ahead of the general election 2019. In an effort to do so, WhatsApp has launched a ‘tip-line’ where users can report misinformation and Facebook is pulling pages for ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’.

Both platforms have a massive amount of users in India with more than 200 million on Whatsapp and 300 million on Facebook. Both of these figures are considered to be on the conservative side according to analysts, indicating their actual actual may be a lot more.

The WhatsApp tipline is a great solution for users who are actually interested in the authenticity of a post that’s shared with them. It requires the user to message the designated WhatsApp number (+91-9643000888) where the platform will respond by classifying information as ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘misleading’, ‘disputed’ or ‘out of scope’.
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This doesn’t only pertain to messages in English but also Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam and English.

But, at the end of the day, how many users have the time to separately verify every piece of information that they get on WhatsApp across the many groups?

Facebook, on the other hand, pulled down 687 pages and accounts that were linked to one of the leading political parties in India, Congress for trying to push their election agenda under the radar.

The issue of authenticity

WhatsApp, currently owned by Facebook, has had its fair share of bad press in India where a series of lynching incidents were reported to be a result of a video that went viral on the platform.

Facebook’s battle against fake news has been a tough one as well. Despite having on boarded local partners for fact checking and tweaking their algorithm to focus on family and friends, Facebook’s response time leaves a lot to be desired.

In India, a Facebook user called Avi Dandiya posted a video of conversation allegedly between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, the home minister and an unidentified woman which was later exposed as fake news by BOOM, one of Facebook's fact checking partners.

But, by that time the post already had 2.5 million views and 150,000 shares.

Not to mention the New Zealand mass shooting where the rampage was live-streamed for 17 minutes before being cut off. By the time Facebook could go around pulling the footage, a lot of people had already downloaded their own copy or were watching snippets reposted on YouTube.

Recognising the increasing incidence of fake news, the Election Commission of India asked the social networking giants to present The “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019.” It has been implemented in India ahead of the world’s largest democratic exercise to ensure that confidence in the electoral process does not wane.

See also:
Here's how global tech giants are tackling 'fake news' ahead of elections in the world's largest democracy

Hyper-nationalism behind India’s fake news menace: Report

The Indian election might be Facebook's last chance to prove that it can fight fake news and political bias