Facebook Inc's WhatsApp messaging platform on Tuesday published advertisements in key Indian newspapers to tackle the spread of misinformation, its first such effort to combat a flurry of fake messages that prompted mob lynchings.
Beatings and deaths triggered by false incendiary messages in India, WhatsApp's biggest market with more than 200 million users, caused a public relations nightmare, sparking calls from authorities for immediate action.
"Together we can fight false information," read full-page advertisements in some top English language-newspapers, part of a series that will also feature in regional-language dailies.
It urged users to check information before sharing it and cautioned them about the spread of fake news. "We are starting an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumours," a WhatsApp spokesman said in a statement.
"Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages. We will build on these efforts."
During the week, it aims to publish similar advertisements in regional dailies across India, from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the west to the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in the north, it added.
WhatsApp has previously said it is tweaking features and giving users controls in its effort to rein in false messages. As part of this effort, it is now testing a feature that will label suspicious links, warning users that the link that they are about to open may contain false or unverified information.
It is also testing the labelling of messages to show users when a message received is just a forward, rather than one created by the sender so as to allow users to more easily spot chain messages/ forwards. The company also recently launched a feature that allowed only admins to post messages in a group, further limiting the spread of fake news.