In order to crack down on fake news ahead of the general elections in India, messaging giant WhatsApp on Tuesday unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’ where the users can check the authenticity of the information he or she receives.
Along with other parts of the world, WhatsApp has emerged as one of the most popular messengers used by the people of Northeast India.
The decision of the WhatsApp comes in the wake of the report that the accountability rules for popular social media apps are going to be more tough with the central government set to bring changes in upcoming intermediary guidelines proposing penalties and jail terms for social media executives.
Media reports quoted the Facebook-owned company as saying: “Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp.”
The people in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888) with effect from Tuesday, the statement added.
It has been stated that once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification centre will want to respond and let the user of the tool know if the claim made in a message shared is verified 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,” the statement further says.
PROTO’s verification centre, according to the report, is equipped to review content in the form of pictures, video links or text and will cover English and four regional languages in India – Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam and Telugu.
WhatApp has already started campaigns across television, radio and newspapers to alert Indian people to identify misinformation and curb the spread of fake news.
During the election period, PROTO will look at working with various organisations working at the grassroots level to submit misinformation being circulated across different regions in the country.
The country will witness parliamentary polls in seven phases starting on April 11, 2019.
India is considered by Facebook as one of its largest markets with over 200 million users. But the company has drawn flak from the Indian government after a series of mob-lynching incidents, triggered by rumours circulated through WhatsApp, claimed several lives in 2018.
Coming under tremendous pressure to stop rumours and fake news, last year WhatsApp had to restrict the limit of forwarding messages to only five at once.
WhatsApp has also put out advertisements in newspapers and has been running radio and television campaigns offering tips to users on how to spot misinformation and fake news.
The Indian government also warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt is made to influence the country’s electoral process through unfair means.