WhatsApp says will work on security, make efforts to weed out fake news

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Published: March 13, 2019 10:49:00 PM

WhatsApp has taken a number of steps over the last year to check dissemination of fake information, including the appointment of a US-based grievance officer for India.

Last year, fake news circulated on WhatsApp incited mob fury, and resulted in over a dozen people getting lynched across India. (Representational photo/Reuters)

WhatsApp on Wednesday said that the company will take more measures to limit viral content after it faced immense pressure from the Indian government to devise ways to identify and weed out fake news on its platform. Abhijit Bose, India head of WhatsApp, said that security is fundamental to the messaging platform and that he would work with the stakeholders in India to achieve the ‘common safety goal’, according to PTI.

The announcement comes a month before the Lok Sabha 2019 elections kick off in India. WhatsApp has been plagued with fake news that incited mob fury, and resulted in over a dozen people getting lynched across India. The government has, on several occasions, warned social media companies that they can’t evade responsibility if their platforms are used to spread false information.

Government officials have even met with senior WhatsApp executives to ask the Facebook unit to start tracing the origins of misinformation spread through its messaging platform. Bose, who now heads WhatsApp India’s team, is the first top-level executive to be hired for the country that accounts for the lion’s share of its global user base.

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“We strongly believe that private messaging is fundamental to safety and we are pleased that the recent changes we have made to limit viral content and educate users is having an impact. This work is never done — there is more that we can and will do,” PTI quoted Bose as saying.

WhatsApp has taken a number of steps over the last year to check dissemination of fake information, including the appointment of a US-based grievance officer for India and introducing a “forwarded” label to clarify when a text had not originated from the sender.

It also attempted to slow down forwarding of messages by limiting the number of contacts to whom a message could be sent – to five at a time.

WhatsApp is also conducting research with academics and other experts to help understand the challenge of misinformation and improve efforts over time. It has published ads in various newspapers and conducted road-shows, radio, and television campaigns, outlining steps to spot fake news.

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