TUE 31 - 3 - 2020
Date: Apr 3, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
WhatsApp launches fact-check service
MUMBAI: WhatsApp Tuesday launched a service for Indians to check the veracity of information, in the messaging platform’s latest attempt to combat fake news in India ahead of national elections beginning this month.

WhatsApp said in a statement it was working with local startup Proto to classify messages sent to the service by users as true, false, misleading or disputed. They will also build a database of such content to better understand misinformation.

The move comes as WhatsApp, with more than 200 million users in India, battles criticism of its platform being used for the spread of misinformation, while several social media companies across the board work to prevent the phenomenon - particularly during sensitive events such as elections.

WhatsApp owner Facebook Inc. said Monday that it had deleted 712 accounts and 390 pages in India and Pakistan for “inauthentic behavior,” saying many were linked to India’s opposition Congress party and others related to Pakistan’s military. The first phase of India’s elections are scheduled to begin on April 11, with final results expected around May 23.

Major Indian political parties have accused each other of propagating fake news on WhatsApp while denying they do so themselves. In February, a senior WhatsApp executive said parties were trying to use the app in “ways for which it was not intended.”

WhatsApp had a similar challenge during Brazilian elections last year, when politicians had faced claims of spreading falsehoods on the platform.

“As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, regions, and more,” Proto’s founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi said in a statement.

WhatsApp said Proto would be helped by two other organizations with experience working on misinformation-related projects.

The new service, dubbed Checkpoint Tipline, can receive messages in the form of images and video as well as text in English and four regional languages, it added. Checkpoint is a research project commissioned by WhatsApp.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption allows groups of many users to exchange text messages, images and video beyond the oversight of independent fact checkers or even the company itself.

In July, the company introduced a measure limiting the number of messages a user can forward, a move aimed at curbing mass forwards in India, where the spread of rumors led to several killings and sparked calls for government action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 03, 2019, on page 8.

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