Following the barrage of fake news being spread using its messaging app, the popular social media and chat platform WhatsApp on Monday launched its first-ever TV campaign in India to fight the menace of misinformation, false news, and hateful rumours.
WhatsApp had earlier launched a radio campaign in two phases to create awareness among users addressing the same problem. The first phase was kicked off on August 29 with ads across 46 radio stations of the All India Radio (AIR) in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
The second phase started on September 5 with radio ads across 83 AIR radio stations in Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu.
WhatsApp said it worked closely with filmmaker Shirsha Guha Thakurta for the TV campaign. They will develop three 60 second films with each conveying real scenarios about dangerous rumours that can spread among users.
Each film’s protagonist teaches someone important in their lives to not spread rumours and to use WhatsApp controls such as the ability to leave groups where rumours are spread and block unknown senders.
Timed to start just prior to the Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Telangana, the films will be available on TV, Facebook, and YouTube in nine languages that would build on to prepare for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls informed the Facebook-owned platform.
“We’re humbled by the impact that WhatsApp had on people’s ability to freely connect with their loved ones. We recognise at the same time connecting people can also lead to the spread of misinformation, which has to be confronted,” said Bosco Zubiaga, who led the production of these films for WhatsApp.
WhatsApp, with over 200 million users in India, has been reportedly used to spread rumours which allegedly led to many cases of lynching and mob violence in many parts of the country, forcing the government to send a stern message to the company.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, during his meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in August, said that the platform must comply with the law and take suitable steps to prevent its misuse.
Over the last few months, WhatsApp has made a series of changes including labelling forwarded messages to inform users when they have received something not from their immediate contact and set a limit on how forwarded messages can be sent.
In addition, it bans accounts that engage in an unwanted automated activity.
“We hope this campaign will help educate people how to stay safe on WhatsApp,” Zubiaga said.
(With agency inputs)