WhatsApp Set Up a Tip Line in India for Users to Report and Verify Suspicious Political Messages

The Facebook-owned messaging app teamed up with Proto, Dig Deeper Media, Meedan

WhatsApp users in India can submit messages that they deem suspicious to +91-9643-000-888 WhatsApp
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Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp teamed up with New Delhi-based digital media training startup Proto to create a tip line where “uncertain information or rumors” can be reported.

The 2019 Indian general election will be held in seven phases, from April 11 through May 19.

WhatsApp users can now submit messages that they deem suspicious to +91-9643-000-888, and Checkpoint—a research project that was commissioned by and receives technical assistance from the messaging app—will use that information to create a database of rumors and misinformation that are being shared in the run-up to the election.

Here’s how it works: When messages are shared via the tip line, Proto’s verification center will determine whether claims made in those messages have been verified.

Dig Deeper Media and Meedan are helping Proto develop its verification and research frameworks for India. Meedan developed the technology being used to support the verification of rumors, and it will maintain the database, following the integration of its Check platform into the WhatsApp Business API (application-programming interface).

Proto will share its findings with users who report messages, including whether the information contained in those messages is true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope, and it will provide any other available related information.

The company is also encouraging grassroots organizations to share rumors they come across in different areas of the country.

Its verification center can review text, images and video links in four regional languages: Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.

Proto said that it will share its learnings with the International Center for Journalists once the elections in India are done.

Proto founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi said in a release, “The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale natively in WhatsApp. As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, regions and more. The verification reports we send back will encourage our grassroots-level ‘listening posts’ to send more signals for analysis.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.