WhatsApp launched a hotline Tuesday allowing Indians to flag rumors circulating ahead of the upcoming election, a major concern in a country where fake news has fuelled violence.
It comes a day after WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook removed hundreds of pages promoting India’s ruling and opposition parties for violating rules around spam and “coordinated inauthentic behavior” online.
The spread of viral fake videos and messages on social media platforms has proved incendiary in India, where half a billion people are online but limited digital literacy has helped rumors spread like wildfire. As hundreds of millions of Indians prepare to vote this month and next, experts say the biggest election in history will also prove an immense misinformation challenge.
Less than two weeks before voting starts, WhatsApp has launched a “tipline” in partnership with an Indian startup that it says will allow voters to submit uncertain or suspicious content for verification. Pictures, video links, and texts will be analyzed and debunked if untrue in English and four regional languages, the company said in a statement. “This combined effort by WhatsApp and industry organizations will help contribute to the safety of the elections, by giving people means to know if the information is verified and deter people from sharing rumors that have no basis in fact,” it said.
The WhatsApp tipline follows other security measures taken by the firm in India, its largest global market with 200 million users. WhatsApp restricted message forwarding in India last year and ran newspaper adverts to counter fake news after a spate of mob killings sparked by hoaxes spread on its messaging service.