WhatsApp launched a fact checking service, where users can send in messages, photos and videos that they want verified. They will then be told if it’s true, false, disputed or misleading.
The service helpline 9643-000-888, is meant to counter fake news and misinformation ahead of India’s general election. The feature will be available in English and four Indian languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.
Several fact checking platforms were already operational in India such as Alt News and Boom already verify questionable content sent in by readers via WhatsApp. But the messaging platform itself has now launched its own operation, with a little over a week to go until the first votes are cast.
WhatsApp has been under scrutiny in India, where misinformation spread via the app has fuelled mob violence.
Facing pressure from the Indian government, the platform was forced last year to implement several features to curb fake news. It limited the number of times a message could be forwarded and marked such messages with a label so users were aware.
With an estimated 200 million users, India is WhatsApp’s biggest market. It is also the most popular internet-based service in the country. This means it has tremendous reach, allowing messages to spread quickly and exponentially.
In recent years, WhatsApp in India has become notorious for viral and often unverified political messaging – text, photos and, most of all, videos that sometimes promote conspiracy theories and outright false information.
“This tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections,” WhatsApp said in a statement.
With WhatsApp and Facebook being increasingly used for campaigning, India’s Election Commission has said it will hold politicians accountable for what they say on social media platforms.
Earlier this week, Facebook removed hundreds of accounts and pages linked to Indian political parties.