WhatsApp Offers $50,000 For Help To Tackle Fake News After Mob Killings

WhatsApp Offers $50,000 For Help To Tackle Fake News After Mob Killings

WhatsApp is offering research grants to social scientists to help it combat the spread of “misinformation” through the cross-platform messaging service. The move comes in the wake of a string of lynchings in India from fake news rumors spread on the free messaging platform.
The service, which is owned by Facebook, is offering up to $50,000 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.”WhatsApp has come under fire in recent days in India – its largest market – after a string of brutal slayings that left more than a dozen dead in more than five states – including eight dead in the past week alone. In most cases, innocent bystanders were beaten to death by mobs fed by WhatsApp rumors of child kidnappers or organ harvesting rings. On Sunday, a mob in Maharashtra set upon five people from a nomadic tribe of beggars,beating the victims to death and then turning on police who tried to intervene.uttarkhand mob video.The forwarding of fake news is a rising societal problem in India, where more than 200 million users – many of them on smartphones for the first time – send billions of messages each day on WhatsApp.The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a sharply worded warning Tuesday, saying WhatsApp cannot “evade accountability and responsibility” for messages that lead to the spread of violence and called for the company to “take immediate action to end this menace.”“The abuse of [platforms] like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content are equally a matter of deep concern,” the ministry said. “. . . Deep disapproval of such developments has been conveyed to the senior management of the WhatsApp and they have been advised that necessary remedial measures should be taken to prevent proliferation of these fake and at times motivated/sensational messages.”WhatsApp, in a response letter to the ministry, said 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.”But the company also said that messages on its platform can become “highly viral” as users share them, they also are encrypted, making it more difficult to monitor for hate or illegal speech than other social media platforms.
Unlike social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook – in which posts are put on websites and can be broadly viewed online, based on users’ privacy settings – WhatsApp works like traditional text messaging services or Apple’s Messages app, with users messaging other people they know.