WhatsApp offers $50,000 for help curb spread of fake news

In wake of government’s recent move asking WhatsApp to take immediate steps to stop spreading of fake news that led to incidents of lynching in more than five states in last six weeks, WhatsApp in its response is taking initiatives and one such initiative is offering grants to social scientists to help it curb the spread of “irresponsible” messages through its platform.

WhatsApp is offering up to $50,000 for proposals that “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.”

Nikhil Pahwa, a technology expert warned in a blog post on his site, MediaNama, that India’s “massive” fake news problem is “going to get worse.”

“Like the Government of India, we’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised. We believe this is a challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together,” the WhatsApp said in its response to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

WhatsApp’s response to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a letter:

Taking steps to “prevent spam, which includes some of the misinformation that can create mistrust and potentially violence,” noted in letter.

“Over 25 per cent of its user base in India is not part of Groups – this also means a third of WhatsApp users here are exposed to groups in some way.”

 “The way people use the app is by nature still very private.”

Nine out ten messages are still sent from just one person to another, which means that nearly 90 per cent of messages shared on the platform are not on groups. These figures are shared for global usage not specifically to India.

Announced changes that will mark all forwarded messages as ‘Forwarded’ and give Group admins the option to limit the ability to send messages to just other admins, rather than all participants.

More messages are sent on a one-on-one basis, rather than everything being shared to groups, WhatsApp letter revealed.

“We use machine learning to identify accounts sending a high volume of messages (faster than any human could) and we are constantly working to improve our ability to stop unwanted automated messages.”