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WhatsApp battles fake news in India


Fake news often goes viral, just because a message is shared many times does not make it true.

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market, with over 200 million people using the platform each month. The Indian government issued a warning to the company on Tuesday, following a spate of mob

WhatsApp messaging service, owned by Facebook, took out full-page ads in leading English and Hindi newspapers on Tuesday, giving readers 10 tips to spot messages that might be fake.

The ads are part of a campaign by WhatsApp in its biggest market following a spate of lynching that have been blamed on hoaxes sent over the platform.

Facebook would translate the ads to run in local newspapers in nine Indian states, many of which speak different languages.

WhatsApp’s tips include checking with other sources, looking up photos online that may be edited, and thinking twice before forwarding a message you have doubts about.

Whatsapp service is testing a tool in India that will show users when a message has been forwarded rather than composed by the sender, it said in a letter to the Indian government on Wednesday. WhatsApp shared the letter with CNNMoney.

RS Prasad, the country’s current Union Minister for Law and Justice, and Electronics and Information Technology, called on WhatsApp to focus on security-related aspects of its service last week, as India is its largest market with more than 200 million users. In his words “India is one of the biggest markets for Whatsapp having biggest user base in the world. Therefore, it is important for Whatsapp to focus on security related aspects of people of India as well”

WhatsApp can certainly look into technological solutions for quashing the spread of misinformation as best as it can with encrypted messages. That can help to some degree, and it’d do well to pore over learnings from its parent company, Facebook, in this regard. But ultimately, India’s political leaders need to engage communities to better understand what’s fueling their paranoia, their need to spread fake news without questioning its veracity, and their need to sidestep law enforcement agencies and resort to vigilantism.