Post mob lynching incidents, WhatsApp offers $50,000 to help curb spreading of fake news

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The move comes after several lynching incidents from different parts of the country after rumours of fake news spread on WhatsApp

The Hush Post: Post several incidents of lynching by angry mobs, WhatsApp has offered research grants to social scientists to help it combat the spread of fake news or “misinformation” through the messaging application. The move comes after several lynching incidents from different parts of the country after rumours of fake news spread on WhatsApp.

The Facebook-owned messaging application has offered up to $50,000 for proposals to “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,” a report said.

After a string of brutal incidents of lynching by the mob from more than five states of the country, the WhatsApp had come under fire. In recent incidents, eight deaths were reported in such incidents in last week alone. In most cases, innocent bystanders were beaten to death by mobs fed by WhatsApp rumors of child kidnappers or organ harvesting rings, the report said.

The report said that forwarding posts of fake news are a rising problem in the country, where more than 200 million users send billions of messages daily on WhatsApp, it was reported.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had issued a sharply worded warning that said that 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 report said.

“The abuse of [platforms] like WhatsApp for repeated circulation of such provocative content is equally a matter of deep concern,” the ministry order had 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,” the order further said.

In response, WhatsApp 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.”

The WhatsApp also said that messages on its application 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, the report said.

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