Ahead of India’s general elections from April 11, WhatsApp has announced the launch of a new tip line to report misinformation and rumours on the platform. The Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp +91-9643-000-888, has been launched by India-based media skilling startup PROTO.
The startup will take advantage of the tipline to create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint. WhatsApp has commissioned the research project and the company will provide technical assistance for the project as well.
WhatsApp users can send messages they find suspicious to the tipline where PROTO’s verification centre will check whether the message shared is true, false, misleading, disputed or out of its scope. To support findings about the messages, users may also receive other related information that is available.
Suspicious messages that users need to get verified can be in the form of text, pictures or video links. Other than English, four regional languages including Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam are supported.
“The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale — natively in WhatsApp. As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, regions, and more. The verification reports we send back will encourage our grassroots-level “listening posts” to send more signals for analysis,” Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi, PROTO’s founders, said in a statement.
Following the project, PROTO plans to submit its learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organizations learn from the design and operations of this project, they said.
The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections will take place in seven phases from April 11 till May 19, and the results will be announced on May 23. WhatsApp has over 250 million Indian users, and is one of the most used platforms when it comes to messaging.
However, the platform is also prone to misuse with people circulating fake news and misinformation. In the past, the spread of misinformation has led to incidents of mob violence and lynching in many parts of India, after which the Facebook-owned company took several steps to curb this.
A new feature, which has recently been launched only for beta users, reveals the number of times a message has been forwarded.