The Facebook owned messaging app, WhatsApp has launched a special fact-checking service, ‘Checkpoint Tipline’ to counter fake news and misinformation especially at the time when India is gearing up for the General Elections, starting April 11, 2019.
The users can check the authenticity of a message, photo or video they receive by reporting it to WhatsApp number +91-9643-000-888. After receiving a message, WhatsApp will respond if information is classified as ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘misleading’, ‘disputed’ or ‘out of scope’. The feature is available in English, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.
This has been developed in collaboration with India based media skilling start-up, ‘PROTO.’
In a media statement, WhatsApp said, “The challenge of viral misinformation requires more collaborative efforts and cannot be solved by any one organization alone. 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 rumours that have no basis in fact.”
This feature is aimed at creating a database of rumours to study the misinformation which is being spread during elections. News Consultancy – Dig Deeper Media and San Francisco based – Meedan, which builds digital tools for fact verification are helping PROTO in developing the verification and research frameworks. PROTO will also encourage grassroots organisations to submit rumors circulating across different regions in India during the election period. On completion of the project, PROTO will submit learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organisations learn from the design and operations of this project.
Speaking on the occasion, the founders of PROTO’s – Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr Ul Hadi, said, “As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages and regions. The verification reports we send back will encourage our grassroots-level listening posts to send more signals for analysis.”
However, WhatsApp has not specified whether it will make the information public of the work done by them.
For the records, WhatsApp is not the first to offer this service. Platforms like ‘AltNews’ and ‘Boom’ also verify the questionable content sent in by users through WhatsApp.
Also, the Government wants to crack down fake and inflammatory posts that disturb peace and harmony in the country. Intermediary guidelines scheduled to be announced after elections will probably include penalties and jail terms for executives of social media companies and messaging apps for non-compliance on matters such as message traceability.