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Fact Check: No, Whatsapp will not verify Fake News during Loksabha Election

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Whatsapp will not be verifying fake news this General Elections. The initiative has been undertaken to amass fake news commonly circulated and to analyse the trend and not to verify it.

Last year cases of violence and deaths were reported across the country because of rumours spread through Whatsapp, the government of India had issued a notice to social media sites including Whatsapp since then Whatsapp has undergone a considerable amount of change. The latest in line is verification of fake news during 2019 General Elections. This post verifies the claim that WhatsApp has undertaken measures to verify fake news this General Elections.

Whatsapp India on May 2nd came up with a feature checkpoint tipline, to curb the spread of fake-news during 2019 General Elections, the company said in a press release, Reuters reported. India is the biggest market for Whatsapp in India used by 82% of internet users in India.

The Facebook-owned media giant issued in public a contact number 9643000888, users can forward their query to this. Social media firm has collaborated with Indian media skilling platform PROTO. After a user forwards his message, tipline would segregate the messages as True, False, misleading, disputed or out of scope. The feature is currently available for Hindi, English, Malayalam, Telugu, and Bengali.

However, various users who have forwarded their messages to verify have not got any response apart from the automated general response. Also as reported by various portals like The Times of India and Gadgets Now, it turns out that the initiative has been undertaken to amass fake news commonly circulated and to analyse the trend and not to verify it. PROTO has said in FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions).

The initiative is named as Project Checkpoint which is a research project at PROTO, commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp. It uses a tipline on WhatsApp (+91- 9643-000-888) only as a means to collect information that is otherwise inaccessible given the nature of private messaging. The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale — natively in WhatsApp — during the Indian elections. Learnings from the project will be shared with the International Center for Journalists for distribution across their global network.

Whatsapp spokesperson told Buzzfeed:

"Tuesday's announcement wasn't intended to suggest that all users would receive responses to tips regarding misinformation during General Elections.” The PROTO meanwhile has in its statement said "We would like to verify every rumour but we know that it will not be possible given the diversity of responses we receive and limitation of any verification research.”

Last year, the government had issued a notice to Whatsapp asking it to take action after rumour spread through its platform resulted in violence and mob-lynching across the country. IT minister Ravishankar Prasad had met Whatsapp CEO (Chief Executing Officer) Chris Daniels and requested to devise ways to trace the origins of fake news, set up a local corporate entity and appoint a grievance officer a Live Mint report brings out

Responding to government direction Whatsapp on July 20 launched a test to limit the forwarded message to up to five chats at once. Further on 3rd July, the firm launched a feature to clearly mark forwarded message. Also, the social media giant had also launched an educational awareness campaign on radio and television to create awareness about fake news.

So the claim that Whatsapp would be checking fake news this General Elections is false.

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