With elections in India set to begin very soon, WhatsApp today announced a new fact-checking service for users in the country. WhatsApp users in India can now forward messages that they think may be fake to the Checkpoint Tipline. The verification center set up by India-based startup PROTO will then asses the suspicious message and classify it as true, false, disputed, or misleading.
In addition to helping users verify suspicious messages, the verification team led by PROTO will also create a database of these messages to help study misinformation spread during the Indian elections. With more data being available, it will become possible to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, and regions.
If you are a WhatsApp user living in India and want to get a message verified, all you will need to do is submit it to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+919643000888). In addition to text messages, you can also submit pictures or videos sent to you by others. Apart from English, the center will review messages in four regional Indian languages: Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, and Malayalam.
WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India and has been repeatedly criticized in the recent past for not doing enough to fight the fake news menace in the country. While the fact-checking service has been formally announced, it does not appear to work as intended just yet. When Reuters submitted a message containing fake information to the Checkpoint Tipline to test the service, it did not receive a response even after two hours of the message getting delivered.
In July last year, WhatsApp rolled out a new feature for its users in India, notifying them if a message is forwarded with a label. In addition to labeling forward messages, the Facebook-owned messaging app also introduced a limit on the number of people that a user can forward a message to.