JAIPUR: On a scorching morning in India’s vacationer mecca of Jaipur, an open truck painted in the signature lime-green colors of Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service pulls right into a dusty lane, the place 5 males spill out and start to carry out a skit.
The occasion is a part of a serious grassroots effort by WhatsApp to battle fake news, which has triggered quite a few lynchings in a rustic the place 200 million individuals use the service, greater than wherever else in the world.
The actors quickly draw a crowd as the play unveils how spreading misinformation on-line can fire up mob violence, particularly in the countryside, the place caste and spiritual prejudices run deep.
“Our society is better than theirs and that’s why you should hate them,” says one, citing one instance of an incendiary textual content circulating on WhatsApp in India. “If you are truly one of us, spread this message.”
Such texts, photos and movies intention to sow discord, warns one other, as the viewers in the capital of India’s western desert state of Rajasthan are then instructed how to determine forwarded messages and use WhatsApp responsibly.
The drive follows intense authorities stress for each Facebook and WhatsApp to struggle fake news and rumour-mongering which have led to greater than 30 deaths in about 70 lynching makes an attempt since Jan. 2017, information portal IndiaSpend says.
The marketing campaign just isn’t totally altruistic. It is being run in conjunction with Reliance Jio, the fast-growing Telecom provider managed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani that just lately made WhatsApp out there on its $20 JioCellphone.
Instructions on how to set up and use the app on the JioCellphone, which has linked tens of tens of millions of low-income Indians to the Internet for the first time, are additionally part of the 10-city roadshow.
Hundreds of individuals from WhatsApp and Jio are serving to drive the marketing campaign, with some WhatsApp staff having flown in from California, a WhatsApp spokeswoman mentioned in an emailed assertion, including that the firm didn’t reveal monetary particulars. A supply acquainted with the matter mentioned the prices had been largely being paid by WhatsApp.
WhatsApp’s efforts to battle fake news in India embrace a restrict on forwarded messages in a market the place extra customers move round messages, images and movies than some other.
It has launched newspaper and radio campaigns and tied up with Delhi-based non-profit Digital Empowerment Foundation to develop a digital literacy curriculum for India.
The firm can also be coaching police and regulation enforcement officers to use WhatsApp in serving to them do their jobs.
“Our goal is to drive one of the largest coordinated public education efforts on misinformation to date anywhere in the world,” WhatsApp mentioned.
India’s expertise minister has demanded the firm do extra, together with working out how to hint the origin of “sinister” messages. But WhatsApp says it is not going to take such steps, which might require it to weaken encryption and different privateness protections.
It just isn’t clear how a lot the public info campaigns will change individuals’s behaviour. But in Jaipur, a minimum of a few of the messages appear to be getting by way of.
“I learnt how to quit a WhatsApp group created by strangers,” mentioned Bhawani Singh Rathore, a 35-year-old instructor, who started utilizing the service simply months in the past and attended.
“And I also learned how to identify a forwarded message and to not send it ahead without checking its accuracy,” he instructed Reuters.