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Days after it received a warning from the government, popular messaging service WhatsApp has come out with a campaign to fight against fake news.
“To fight against fake news, we all need to work together – technology companies, the government and community groups. If you see something that’s not true, make people aware and help stop the spread,” it said in a full-page advertisement released in newspapers on Tuesday.
The advertisement explains a series of steps that users of the platform can take to keep fake news at bay and prevent it from going viral.
A key component of the fight against fake news is a new feature that the messaging service is rolling out this week. This lets users see which messages have been forwarded. “Double check the facts when you are not sure who wrote the original message,” WhatsApp says.
The government had written to WhatsApp on 3 July, expressing concern over a spate of lynchings due to false rumours. Five people were lynched on suspicion of being child-lifters in Maharashtra’s Dhule district in the last week of June.
Similar incidents of mob deaths sparked off by rumours spread on WhatsApp have been reported from Tripura, Karnataka, Assam, and Gujarat.
“The unfortunate abuse of platform like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content is a matter of deep concern,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) had said last week.
Saying, “Together we can fight false information,” the ad campaign lists out tips to help people decide if something sent on WhatsApp is true.
Among the steps it expects its vast community of users to take includes questioning information that upsets them and checking information that seems unbelievable. Looking out for messages that look different can help as hoaxes or fake news often spelling mistakes; even photos can be edited to mislead people, WhatsApp has said.
The WhatsApp advertisement also reiterates some features for users, like blocking a number or leaving a group to control what they see on the messaging service.
Pointing out that fake news often goes viral, it has asked users not to pay attention to the number of times they receive the message. “Just because a message is shared many times, does not make it true,” it says.
Late last year, Facebook too had been forced to look at new strategies to deal with false information after complaints from governments in many countries.