After the recent crackdown on fake account holders on Facebook, such users are now quietly moving onto Whatsapp, reports suggest. The messaging application now becomes the go-to destination for those spreading fake news and rumours. And it has become a matter of great concern for the world’s largest democracy.
With around 250 million monthly active users in India, the spread of fake news and rumours on the messaging app poses a serious threat to the country, especially the democratic polity.
Facebook has shut down 583 million fake accounts in the last three months and moderated 2.5 million posts of hate speech, 1.9 million posts of terrorist propaganda and 3.4 million pieces of graphic violence and 21 million pieces posts promoting adult nudity and sexual activity, social media giant’s first quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report said.
While the Facebook has begun to police the content published on its platform, the case is not the same for Whatsapp. Though both companies have same owners. It is difficult to do policing on WhatsApp because every content on the platform is encrypted and one cannot know about the source of origin of a message or the number of times it was shared.
Several instances of misuse of Whatsapp for propaganda and spreading hate and fake news were reported in the recently-concluded Karnataka Assembly elections.
A New York Times report says the use of Whatsapp during elections is increasing in developing countries like India. About Karnataka, the report said scores of messages sent by political parties, religious activists and others were meant to inflame sectarian tensions besides ordinary campaigns. The two main parties – BJP and Congress – had reportedly set up at least 50,000 WhatsApp groups to spread their respective propaganda. Many of these groups had forwarded messages, fake news, fake videos etc for spreading tensions.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Ankit Lal, was quoted as saying by NYT: “We wrestle on Twitter. The battle is on Facebook. The war is on WhatsApp.”
How to fight
In talks about spread of fake news, Facebook and Twitter get more attention, not Whatsapp which seems to be going out of control. Experts have suggested some ways to fight the fake news menace on Whatsapp:
– Whatsapp should own responsibility make some changes to its platform to allow people know about the source of origin of a message and how many times it was shared.
– Other methods, which is reportedly being tested by Whatsapp, could be to label forwarded message so that users can decide to believe or not believe an item. – Financial Express