Whatsapp To Use 'Suspicious Link Detection' to Curb Fake News, Replies To IT Ministry
Whatsapp in its reply has told the Ministry of Information and Technology that it will start testing ‘suspicious link detection’ to check fake news circulation, as reported by Hindustan Times Minister of IT, Ravishankar Prasad, while appreciating the Whatsapp’s efforts, confirmed that the platform is working on “machine learning to identify the mass circulation of messages.”
I appreciate prompt reply of Whatsapp to our notice. They have promised that they would create a label for forwarded message. They have also assured that Whatsapp will use machine learning to identify mass circulation of messages on its platform. I expect prompt action from them. pic.twitter.com/z2TfFWKijo
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) July 4, 2018
IT Ministry message to WhatsApp:
The Ministry of Electronics and information technology (MEITY), taking into account the escalating incidents of lynching based on WhatsApp rumours has written to the Facebook-owned messaging platform to induce measures against the misinformation spread on its platform.
“IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad takes notice of the recent spate of lynchings — has conveyed the Government’s “deep disapproval” to WhatsApp and called for “necessary remedial measures” and “immediate action” to stem the flow of misinformation” reports The Indian Express
Fake News provoked lynchings:
A fake WhatsApp forward that have been doing rounds since May, of child kidnappers invading the city in disguise and kidnapping children for organ abduction, have resulted in panic and death of more than 20 people in various states across the country.
In a very recent incident, five persons suspected to be child kidnappers were killed in Maharashtra’s Dhule district on account of violence triggered by fake news shared through Social Media.
Across the states the recorded such incidents which claimed lives are “Andhra Pradesh (2),Assam (2), Chhattisgarh (1), Gujarat (1), Karnataka (1), Maharashtra (7), Tamil Nadu (2), Telangana (2), Tripura (2) and West Bengal (2)” reports Scroll
Following “Gau rakshas”:
Violence and lynchings followed by fake news and Social Media rumours are not new in India. Few years before when the government introduced a ban on cow slaughter, several incidents of lynchings on suspicion of cow slaughter has been happening since the Dadri incident, where social media being the major source of misinformation spread.
Unlike incidents of gau rakshas, lynchings based on child kidnap cannot be attributed political reasons but the level of consequences overspreading of misinformation is nothing different in both cases.
A report named Deadly rumours: India’s WhatsApp dilemma by Al Jazeera emphasises that “Indian authorities are on the back foot when it comes even to begin to deal with the challenges posed by the misuse of WhatsApp. Technologically, and even regarding regulation, law enforcement officials are struggling to catch.”
The main challenge posed here is the end to end encryption, a major privacy element in WhatsApp which prevents the authorities from cracking down the source of such fake messages.
In response to the letter from the government, a WhatsApp spokesperson said “WhatsApp cares deeply about people’s safety and their ability to freely communicate. We don’t want our services to be used for spreading harmful misinformation and believe this is a challenge that companies and societies should address.” reports Economic Times
WhatsApp is bringing few changes to its platform which includes publishing authority only given to the admin of a group and in training people to spot fake messages.
WhatsApp has its largest user base in India with 200 million active users in the Country.“The company says that globally, 90 per cent of messages are groups and a majority of groups are less than six people” reports The Indian Express.
WhatsApp parent company Facebook has been under severe scrutiny after the Cambridge Analytica Scandal which involved data breach of more than 87 million users; the tech giant is initiating severe steps to tackle the spread of fake news and misinformation.
Most of the users prone to WhatsApp fake news often tend to be illiterate, first-time internet user. With Android phones available as cheap as Rs. 5000 and data packages for a minimum of Rs.. 150/month, many are getting access to these technologies irrespective of their fiscal power.
It is the same group that mostly gets exposed to false news and misinformation. Therefore the government and tech companies must educate them about its usage. Even senior politicians from the country (mostly from the ruling BJP including the Prime Minister) have fallen prey to fake news and the spread of misinformation.
Fake news and hearsays existed even in the absence of modern communication tools, but the growth and outreach of messaging services like WhatsApp have taken it to a new extent where it creates tensions among the people and claiming innocent lives.