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Whatsapp fights against Hoax News in India before Democratic Revolution with Checkpoint Tipline

Hoax News

Whatsapp has got a huge base in India with approximately 200 million users registered via their mobile numbers. With such a huge customer base, billions of text messages, images, videos, and audios are being shared every day. With this fact being kept in mind, there’s also a spread of fake and baseless news across the Facebook-owned instant messaging service platform many times.

Even elections have been caught up in this fire of fake news. So much so that Brazilian elections too succumbed to a harsh blow with politicians being claimed to spread false news across the platform last year.

Keeping this issue in mind, Whatsapp has started with its newly launched and implemented service of Checkpoint Tipline by working with a local startup named Proto. They are also being joined by two more such startups namely Dig Deep Media and Meedan, which have worked on similar projects in other countries.

The idea behind the service is that any user can send any message (text, image, audio or video) to the service and they’ll reply by categorizing it as “true”, “false”, “misleading” or “disputed”. This will prevent the spreading of any kind of hoax news around and amongst the general masses. This comes in effect to the first phase of election period in India from 11th April 2019 with results being announced by 23rd May 2019.

This has arose to the accusations of various parties on each other for spreading misleading and false news, while not accepting to do the same for themselves (if any). Besides the elections, it has also been set up to not consider any kind of false information like the news of deaths of dozens of people across the world or anything alarming. In February this year, a Senior Executive from Whatsapp even claimed that the platform was being used for purposes which are not intended by the platform.

Whatsapp fights against Hoax News in India

What Proto is basically trying to achieve with this service is to build a database of such kind of misinformation as continuous and heavy flow of such information can help them get a better understanding of susceptible regions, locations, languages and more; as quoted by Proto’s founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi in a statement. The end to end encryption mechanism of messages via Whatsapp makes it hard for any third part to read the messages, even the company itself. Thus finding and going to the base of such kind of misleading information is difficult for them. That’s the reason why the introduction of this service was one of the pain points. But the service currently accepts and analyses messages in English, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malyalam. The number is 919643000888.

Checkpoint Tipline is one amongst such services and measures being adopted by Whatsapp to combat hoax news. It has also limited the count to send a particular message to maximum five groups and also attaches a label of the forwarded message to forwarded messages so that it can be learned that it has a source different from the one who has sent it to you.

With one more privacy concern being undertaken, you can allow or disallow as to who all can add you in a group on Whatsapp. You can choose to either allow/disallow anyone, just your contacts or anyone to add you in a group. Though this feature is still in its beta version, still is a huge boon to those people who are being added in random groups without any knowledge to spread such kind of news.

Facebook has reported that it has removed about 549 Facebook accounts and 138 Pages which had been learned to spread inappropriate and harmful messages in India.

But how to do so?

  • Step 1: Save +91-9643-000-888 in your contact list.
  • Step 2: Whenever you get any message which you find fishy in the form of text, image, audio, video or website link, simply forward it to this number on Whatsapp only.
  • Step 3: Then the automated service would ask you whether you want to check for the truthfulness of the news or not! Press 1 for yes and 2 for No.
  • Step 4: A confirmation message will then be delivered and in some time, you will be informed of the genuineness of the same.

But Whatsapp in one of its statements has said that the project is “primarily” a research-based and fact gathering project and not a helpline kind of number to provide a response. Even if you get an answer, it will just be a simple statement and not a detailed explanation of the information. Else don’t expect a response in particular stipulated time, though you should submit any kind of dodgy information received.

With this initiative of Whatsapp with Proto and Indian government along with other national governments as well, it has started its fight against the expansion of any kind of untrue news/information. In order to support them in this noble cause, we too as dutiful citizens must not participate in any such kind of act. Instead, report about the same to Checkpoint Timeline.

Be a part of THE MOVEMENT!

Amit Sharma
written by: Amit Sharma
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