Social media platforms are struggling to fight against the menace of fake news, which has led to polarisation, mob violence, and even lynchings in India as we have seen in the past. With WhatsApp’s popularity in India — it has close to 400 million users — it has become an effective platform for rumours and fake messages to quickly spread. This is also what prompted WhatsApp to limits forwarding of messages to just five chats, and introducing restrictions in Groups where only admins can post a message.
For users though, there are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to spotting misinformation or fake news on WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned messaging service has announced tips for its users to identify fake news and help prevent the spread of rumours on the platform.
Spot and stop fake news on WhatsApp
Be wary of the frequently forwarded message: WhatsApp labels “Forwarded” messages to help users determine if it was written by the sender of the message or it was originated somewhere else. When a message is forwarded more than five times, the platform labels it as “Frequently Forwarded” message with a double arrow icon.
If you are not sure about who wrote the original message, double-check the facts before believing it or forwarding it another user or group.
Check photos and media carefully: Do not trust photos, audio recordings, and videos sent over the platform as these can be edited to mislead you. “Look at trusted news sources to see if the story is being reported elsewhere. When a story is reported in multiple places, it’s more likely to be true,” WhatsApp says.
You can also cross-check the story on the website of a reputed media house to confirm if the news is authentic. WhatsApp also advises users to ask fact-checkers or people they trust for more information before hitting forward on the message.
Look out for hoax messages: There are a number of spam websites that publish hoax messages to gain traction. These links are forwarded on WhatsApp with unrealistic claims or promise of free stuff. Users should be wary of such sites. Look for signs like spelling mistake, a URL which does not have https in the beginning, etc, to identify the hoax. Remember any offer that appears to be too good a deal is like false. For instance, any link offering free airline tickets or free iPhones or iPads is likely fake.
Check your biases before sharing the information: WhatsApp says that watch out for information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs. It is highly likely that you will trust and share such kind of information without hesitation. The messaging service says that review the facts before sharing information. Stories that seem hard to believe are often false.
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Fake news often goes viral: WhatsApp Groups have become the breeding ground for fake news. WhatsApp says that if a group or contact is constantly sharing fake news, report them. The messaging platform also urges you to ask the sender of a message to verify the information before they share it.
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