WhatsApp has partnered with New Delhi-based Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to create awareness among its users about the need to verify information before sharing it. The move is aimed to reduce circulation of misinformation that has in the past led to incidents of mob lynching and violence. Ahead of the upcoming assembly and general elections, DEF will host 40 training sessions in ten states across the country including in those where there will be polls before the end of the year.
DEF will educate community leaders, government officials, administration representatives, civil society organisations and students of methods of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family. The training will also be included as part of DEF’s network of over 30,000 grassroots community members in seven states.
“As an organisation that is committed to taking the rural and marginalised population online, we also see this as our responsibility to ensure that they know how to keep themselves safe on the Internet, both from security threats and fake news. 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 in a press statement.
“Our goal is to help keep people safe by creating greater awareness about fake news and empowering users to help limit its spread. 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,” said Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager at WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has its largest user base in India with over 200 million monthly active users. The Facebook-owned company is facing heat in the country over the issue of spread of fake news on its platform. WhatsApp recently rolled out measures to tackle the problem, which includes a “Forwarded” label and limit forwarding to five chats at once.
WhatsApp started rolling out its five chat forward limit for India users earlier this month. This means, WhatsApp users can forward a message to only five contacts at a time. However, globally WhatsApp will restrict the number of forwards to 20 chats. If the mesage is forwarded five times from the same account, then WhatsApp will disable the option for forwarding it further.
Earlier this week, WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels met Minister of Law and Justice and Electronics & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad. The government tasked WhatsApp with setting up a proper corporate entity as well as having a grievance officer in India. “You must have a proper compliance of Indian laws.We won’t appreciate a scenario where any problem will have to be answered in America,” Prasad had said.