Experts say that this is a bare minimum, and more work needs to be done.

WhatsApps 10-point ad in Telugu to combat fake news A first stepFile photo
news Social Media Friday, July 27, 2018 - 09:47

People in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana woke up to a full-page advertisement in the newspaper from messaging giant WhatsApp, urging people to collectively fight against 'misinformation'. The ad has 10 tips to help the reader decide whether the information received is genuine or fake.

This comes after multiple instances of mobs lynching people on the suspicion that they were members of child lifting gangs or organ smuggling — and the communication medium for these false messages and rumours was WhatsApp.

In several places in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there was unrest among communities duo to these unconfirmed and fake messages that were widely circulated on the messaging platform.

Both states have seen attacks on people, and with deaths due to this being reported in Telangana more than once.

Telangana’s Jogulamba Gadwal SP Rema Rajeshwari, who has been hailed for her initiatives to curb fake news, said that WhatsApp’s advertisement is "certainly a welcome move, as something is better than nothing."

"In a country like India, where most people are digitally illiterate but have access to technology, merely sending a message with do's and don'ts won’t work. We need both education and enforcement. Inflammatory content regulation is the responsibility of the digital platform," she says.

Rema adds that such initiatives were taken earlier, but were futile as many users ignored such directives and kept forwarding the messages, which contained gory visuals. Short video explainers by stakeholders on why such videos are fake may help counter the mania.

Pratik Sinha, the Co-Founder of Alt News, told TNM that the ad published by WhatsApp in regional languages is "a start and a bare minimum”.

"Releasing such advertisements alone is not going to bring a massive change in the situation. Such measures should have been taken long back," he said.

Pratik also felt that it was unfair to expect WhatsApp to combat the problem single-handedly. “WhatsApp is a medium with certain privacy standards. The government should have done more campaigns through multiple modes of communication to combat the fake news problem. Unfortunately, all the actions were reactive, but not proactive,” he said.

The spate of lynchings has caught the attention of the Supreme Court, who called them “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and told the Parliament to make lynching a separate offence. The government has also issued a notice to WhatsApp over the matter and wants the giant to come up with “better technological solutions”.

WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption, which ensures that no one except the sender and receiver can know the contents of the messages. However, their desire to let people securely communicate has become a threat to innocent lives as well as a challenge.