As the spread of Fake News in India has caused the deaths of many, the platforms who offer the service are scrambling to stop the flow of it.
For many, Fake News seems something without consequence. It’s a label you can slap on something you disagree with, or something you can base your Presidency around it. It seems fairly harmless.
However, other locations in the world don’t have the luxuries that we do, and the spread of fake news can have very real, very personal, very dire consequences.
Over in India, WhatsApp is the preferred method of social contact. The app now plans to bring in some restrictions on these to control the spread of fake news.
Users will now have a limit of people they can share messages with, the move made in response to the Indian government’s warning earlier this month looking to stop the circulation of “irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation”, which has led to the lynching of numerous innocent people across the country.
Since May, there have been at least 16 such cases. According to the coverage that swirls around it, many of the acts were reportedly sparked by paranoia spread on social media over child kidnappers. Seeing as WhatsApp has over 200 million active users, is the finger of blame is pointed at them.
Alongside the changes to the app, the platform has also published a raft of full-page advertisements in broadsheets to educate users on the ills of superfluous news.
“Question information that upsets you”, says WhatsApp’s full-page advertisements. Clearly the solution to declining newspaper ad revenues in India will come from how we tackle our digital fake news crisis. pic.twitter.com/3h5XyJeMIr
— Anuj Srivas (@AnujSrivas) 10 July 2018
Reaching people on a personal basis is the only way forward as internal moderation is much harder. Messages are encrypted, and groups are limited to 256 people, so it’s hard to assess when a piece of information goes viral, the fact-checking enterprise Poynter notes.