Asked by the Government of India to take measures to stop the spread of misinformation and fake news on its platform, WhatsApp has engaged an New Delhi-based organisation to create awareness among its users about the need to fact-check and verify information.
The Facebook-owned company has roped in non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) for the job.
“Our goal is to help keep people safe by creating greater awareness about fake news and empowering users to help limit its spread,” Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager at WhatsApp, said in a statement.
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On August 21, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels, who was visiting New Delhi, and instructed the company to comply with Indian laws and take “suitable” steps to prevent its misuse.
WhatsApp has over 200 million monthly active users in India.
The meeting between Prasad and Daniels took place in the wake of a number of lynching incidents triggered by the spread of misinformation on the instant messaging platform.
As part of its tie-up with WhatsApp, DEF will be holding 40 training sessions for community leaders in 10 states that reported cases of violence, and also where there will be Assembly polls this year.
The foundation said it would help educate government officials, administration representatives, civil society organisations and students to spread the word about this challenge.
WhatsApp and DEF expect the training will enable the users to differentiate between opinions and facts. The users will also be taught to inculcate a habit of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family.
The DEF said it would also incorporate this new training as part of its network of over 30,000 community members at the grassroot level in seven states.
“We at WhatsApp and DEF hope these training workshops will help build an empathetic and conscious community of WhatsApp users who learn to respond rather than react to every message they receive,” said Osama Manzar, Founder-Director of DEF.
WhatsApp has been taking measures at its end to curb the problem of disinformation. It has started labelling messages as “forwarded” if it has not been created by the sender and has also limited forwarding to five chats per user.
“In addition to the steps we are taking within WhatsApp, we believe impacting lives through the power of education is critical to helping achieve the vision of a ‘Digital India’,” Supple said in the statement.