WhatsApp And Jio Battle Fake News in India, With a Skit to Spread The Awareness Against Hate Speech
The event is part of a major grassroots effort by WhatsApp to battle fake news, which has triggered numerous lynchings in a country where 200 million people use the service, more than anywhere else in the world.
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On a hot morning in India’s tourist mecca of Jaipur, an open truck painted in the signature lime-green colours of Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service pulls into a dusty lane, where five men spill out and begin to perform a skit. The event is part of a major grassroots effort by WhatsApp to battle fake news, which has triggered numerous lynchings in a country where 200 million people use the service, more than anywhere else in the world.
The actors soon draw a crowd as the play unveils how spreading misinformation online can stir up mob violence, especially in the countryside, where caste and religious prejudices run deep.“Our society is better than theirs and that’s why you should hate them,” says one, citing one example of an incendiary text circulating on WhatsApp in India. “If you are truly one of us, spread this message.” Such texts, pictures and videos aim to sow discord, warns another, as the viewers in the capital of India’s western desert state of Rajasthan are then told how to identify forwarded messages and use WhatsApp responsibly.
The drive follows intense government pressure for both Facebook and WhatsApp to fight fake news and rumour-mongering that have led to more than 30 deaths in about 70 lynching attempts since Jan. 2017, data portal IndiaSpend says. The campaign is not entirely altruistic. It is being run in conjunction with Reliance Jio, the fast-growing telecom carrier controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani that recently made WhatsApp available on its $20 JioPhone.
Instructions on how to install and use the app on the JioPhone, which has connected tens of millions of low-income Indians to the Internet for the first time, are also a part of the 10-city roadshow.
(Disclaimer: News18.com is part of Network18 Media & Investment Limited which is owned by Reliance Industries Limited that also owns Reliance Jio)
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