WhatsApp Offers $50,000 For Help To Combat Fake News After Rumours Spur Lynchings

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 1
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| July 5 , 2018 , 13:32 IST

Instant messaging app WhatsApp, in an attempt to curb the spread of fake news and rumours on its platform is offering up to $50,000 in research grants to help combat the spread of 'misinformation' through WhatsApp, media reported on Thursday.

The announcement from WhatsApp comes in the wake of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) reaching out to it regarding the spread of rumours that triggered mob lynchings in 5 states and asked WhatsApp to "take immediate action to end this menace."

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Responding to the Ministry, WhatsApp on Wednesday had said that it is "horrified by these terrible acts of violence" and that "false news, misinformation and spread of hoaxes are issues best tackled collectively: by government, civil society and technology companies working together."

To combat the spread of rumours, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is working on a new technology which would flag messages that have been forwarded and not written by the sender.

The bounty of $50,000 has been announced for proposals that "foster insights into the impact of technology on contemporary society in this problem space" including election-related content, digital literacy and "detection of problematic behavior within encrypted systems," reported the Washington Post.

In comparison to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, where posts are published and can be broadly viewed online based on the users' privacy settings, WhatsApp is more of a traditional text messaging service with the messages visible only to the sender and recipient.

WhatsApp chat groups, which can include up to 256 users, exponentially increase the spread of news, whether fake or authentic as the news shared with the 256 people can be forwarded to other groups, prompting a chain reaction.