Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp which has been facing the heat over the spread of fake news on its platform, has partnered with New Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to create awareness among its users about the need to verify information before sharing it. As part of this partnership, WhatsApp and DEF will host 40 training sessions in ten states across the country including in those where there will be polls before the end of the year.
The aim is to stop the circulation of misinformation that has in the past led to incidents of mob lynching and violence before next year’s Lok Sabha elections. DEF said that it will educate community leaders, government officials, administration representatives, civil society organisations and students of methods of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family.
The training is expected to enable WhatsApp users to differentiate between opinions and facts, and to inculcate a habit of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family. In addition, DEF said it would incorporate this new training as part of their network of over 30,000 grassroots community members in seven states.
It aims to build a community of WhatsApp users who learn to respond and not react to the information they receive on the platform.
“As an organisation that is committed to taking the rural and marginalised population online, we also see this as our responsibility to ensure that they know how to keep themselves safe on the Internet, both from security threats and fake news. We at WhatsApp and DEF hope these training workshops will help build an empathetic and conscious community of WhatsApp users who learn to respond rather than react to every message they receive,” said Osama Manzar, Founder – Director of DEF in a press statement.
Meanwhile, Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager at WhatsApp said that it is committed to creating a safe environment and believes that it is important to educate people.
“Our goal is to help keep people safe by creating greater awareness about fake news and empowering users to help limit its spread. In addition to the steps we are taking within WhatsApp, we believe impacting lives through the power of education is critical to helping achieve the vision of a Digital India,” Supple added.
The partnership comes days after WhatsApp had rolled out a new feature to tackle the problem which labels “Forwarded” messages and also limits them to five chats. This means WhatsApp users can forward a message to only five contacts at a time.
The feature was launched only in India and the users in other countries can still forward the messages to 20 chats.
Earlier, in a meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels on August 21, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad instructed the Facebook-owned platform to comply with the law of the land and take “suitable” steps to prevent its misuse.