With a few days left before the first leg of the Lok Sabha 2019 elections kicks off in India, WhatsApp in collaboration with PROTO, a local media skilling startup has opened a hotline for callers to tip off the authorities about the spread of misinformation.
If anybody receives suspicious messages, rumours, false information, they can call or forward the message to Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp +91-9643-000-888.
Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, Proto's verification centre will validate the information, and inform the user if the claim made in a message shared is authentic or not.
The response will indicate if the information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available. This centre is capable of reviewing rumours in the form of pictures, video links or text in four regional languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam in addition to English. PROTO is also taking the help of grassroots organizations to submit rumours circulating across different regions in India during the election period.
Proto is also working with two other firms Dig Deeper Media and Meedan; the latter has developed a technology to support the verification of rumours and maintain the database of rumours that have been processed. All three in association with WhatsApp have expanded Check platform (developed for recent elections in Mexico and France) and integrated it with the WhatsApp Business API, to receive and respond to messages at a bigger scale.
"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." Following the project, PROTO plans to submit learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organizations learn from the design and operations of this project," Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi, Proto's co-founders said in a statement.
WhatsApp is also working with the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) Foundation announced to work on improving digital literacy among youth in the country to curb the spread of the misinformation.
They have already started the first leg of the campaign in late March and will be expanding to more cities, towns and villages in coming days. In the lead up to Lok Sabha elections, they are said to host training workshops for representatives from rural and urban along with roadshows across numerous educational institution.
Just a day ago, WhatsApp parent company Facebook removed 687 pages and accounts affiliated with IT cell of Indian National Congress (INC) over mispresenting facts about the ruling party.
Besides Congress, Facebook removed pages affiliated to Indian IT firm Silver Touch and Pakistan-based website for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram in India
It can be noted that the upcoming Lok Sabha election is world's biggest democratic exercise, with more than 900 million eligible citizens are waiting to cast the vote to choose the next prime minister of the country.
The general election is being conducted in seven phases, which kicks off from April 11 and continue till May 19, whereas the counting of votes will be held on May 23.