Aiming to address the challenge of misinformation during the upcomimg Rajasthan Assembly polls, WhatsApp on Monday conducted training for community leaders here, in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), the Facebook-owned mobile messaging platform said.
The education workshop encouraged WhatsApp users to see themselves as “agents of change” by addressing socio-behavioural change and empowered them to spot false news.
The training will also enable them to differentiate between rumours and opinions; shared subsequent steps to tackle instances of false news and tips to stay safe on WhatsApp.
“WhatsApp is proud to have played a part in helping millions of people in Rajasthan to freely connect with their loved ones anywhere in the world. These trainings are a key part of our strategy to help people stay safe and limit the spread of harmful rumours this election season” said Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager, WhatsApp, in a statement.
The curriculum further delved into how users can contact fact-checking organisations like Altnews and Boom Live to accurately verify information when they are in doubt.
The training was attended by over 100 participants including from local government administrations, law enforcement authorities, college students, NGOs and community leaders who are dedicated to the technological empowerment of their society, especially villages and semi-urban centre.
“While the problem of misinformation is not restricted to rural areas alone, it is the rural population that majorly lacks access to alternative news sources for sake of verification,” said Osama Manzar, Founder and Director, DEF.
“We see education as the only solution to this problem, and we know that when we teach them some basic verification techniques, they’re going to tell at least two other people about it, creating a ripple effect and potentially fighting misinformation.”
Additionally, WhatsApp and DEF will organise workshops as a part of their Community Information Resource Centre (CIRC), where they will conduct training sessions targeted at grassroots communities in rural areas across five states in India, the company said.
In August, WhatsApp was asked by the central government to take steps to stop the spread of disinformation on its platform.
WhatsApp roped in New Delhi-based non-profit DEF and initiated a series of educational workshops in 10 key election states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana.
The teams will also cover key states such as, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and Jharkhand by March 2019, the statement said.