WhatsApp today roped in New Delhi-based non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to train its over 200 million users in India on dangers posed by fake news. This step comes right after the Facebook-owned company was ordered by Central Government to take steps to stop the spread of disinformation on the platform. In a meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels on August 21, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad instructed the Facebook-owned platform to comply with the law of the land and take “suitable” steps to prevent its misuse.
“Our goal is to help keep people safe by creating greater awareness about fake news and empowering users to help limit its spread,” Ben Supple, Public Policy Manager at WhatsApp, said in a statement. This news is reported by IANS.
The meeting took place after several lynching incidents were linked to the spread of misinformation on the instant messaging platform which has over 200 million monthly active users in India.
As part of the new partnership with WhatsApp, DEF has committed to holding 40 training sessions for community leaders in 10 states across the country where there have been worrisome cases of violence and where there will be state polls before the end of the year. DEF said it would help educate government officials, administration representatives, civil society organisations and students to spread the word about this challenge.
The training is expected to enable WhatsApp users to differentiate between opinions and facts, and to inculcate a habit of verifying information through simple checks before forwarding it to their friends and family.
In addition, DEF said it would incorporate this new training as part of their network of over 30,000 grassroots community members in seven states.
“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.
WhatsApp has already taken several technological measures to curb the problem of disinformation, including the introduction of the “forwarded” tag and limiting forwarding to five chats at once.
“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’,” Supple added.
It will be interesting how this progresses for WhatsApp. In India, it takes a matter of minutes to spread the news on something whether it’s fake or reliable and WhatsApp has become a centre stage for the same. With the 2019 elections ahead, the Indian government is taking necessary steps to curb the spreading of fake news on the platform.