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Addressing WhatsApp’s Fake News problems

With over 200 million users in India, WhatsApp has a massive Fake News and misinformation problem. The platform is now rife with all kinds of misinformation, whether political, religious, historical, medical, social or legal. Political parties use the platform to rally supporters, and "IT Cells" are believed to be using the platform for spreading misinformation and hate speech. These are then forwarded by their supporters to millions of others, from person to person. Local administration often doesn't know what to do when mobs start collecting and rioting, apart from shutting down Internet access. According to SFLC.in's Internet shutdowns tracker, India had 70 Internet shutdowns in 2017, and in the first six months of 2018, we're already at 65. More recently, mobs have attacked and killed people, following the spreading of a video clip warning about gangs kidnapping children. This is going to get worse. The platform solution to this problem This is a complex problem with no single solution: there is no silver bullet here. Solutions include counter speech, user education and debunking of misinformation from both the government administration and media. We need strong law enforcement to prevent mobs, as well as speedy justice for the victims (as a deterrent). The challenge with dealing with Fake News and misinformation is that WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption doesn't allow even the platform to access messages. While the encryption provides privacy for users when they're messaging, given the anonymity involved in forwarded messages, the platform becomes an enabler for the spread of misinformation.…

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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