WhatsApp is working with over half a dozen partners in India to design a digital literacy programme for educating users on spotting false news and staying safe on the popular messaging platform, which has come under fire for fake messages inciting mob lynching incidents. According to sources, WhatsApp is collaborating with seven organisations, which includes the likes of Centre For Social Research, in the country to discuss how to build and scale an education programme that can tackle the challenges posed by misinformation and fake news. When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “We are now working with experts in India to help grow our digital literacy efforts that will educate people about fake news and how to stay safe on WhatsApp”.
The Facebook-owned company, which has over 200 million users in India, has drawn flak from the Indian government over circulation of rumours and fake news on its platform. Such messages have incited mob-fury, triggering multiple cases of lynching across parts of India and the government issued a stern warning to the company to clamp down on hoax messages designed to “provoke” and “instigate” people earlier this month.
As per a senior government official, the IT ministry is of the view that WhatsApp has not addressed all concerns raised by the government on curbing fake messages that incite mob lynching incidents, and may reach out to the messaging platform again in a few days. WhatsApp had stated that it has launched new safety features, including a label that clearly identifies forwarded messages and controls for group conversations in the last few weeks.
Besides, it is conducting research with academics and other experts to help understand the challenge of misinformation and improve efforts over time. It has also published ads in various newspapers outlining steps on spotting fake news.
A person privy to WhatsApp’s strategy said the chosen groups will review and provide guidance on a training curriculum that WhatsApp has put together around ‘staying safe on WhatsApp’, ‘being thoughtful about content’ and tips for spotting fake news in chats and what to do’ and added that the feedback will be used to run a pilot to gauge the impact.