With over 200 million users, India is not just the largest market for WhatsApp but the messenger is also a potent medium for spreading fake news. The abuse of WhatsApp led to a spate of lynching incidents across India resulting in at least 30 killings.
Aware of the abuse of the messenger service to spread fake news and propaganda and its impact on the ensuing Lok Sabha Polls in the largest democracy of the world, WhatsApp has been taking a slew of initiatives to check and prevent its misuse, especially during the election battle.
Besides launching a new setting that enables administrators to decide who can send messages within groups WhatsApp has added a “Forwarded” caption to messages allowing users to know messages that are forwarded.
It has also been running advertising campaigns in at least 10 languages in various mediums including television, print, online and radio to make aware of the menace of fake news.
In the aftermath of lynching incidents triggered by Whatsapp forwards, the messenger service also reportedly resorted to street theatre to spread awareness about fake news and inflammatory and communally sensitive messages.
The messaging platform is also engaging with government and civil society members to tackle the menace of fake news. It has also partnered with NGOs and devised curriculum addressing safety issues and spotting rumours.