Whatsapp Fake News
Image Courtesy of Washington Post
  • Facebook announced its WhatsApp Rewards Initiative to study the increase in fake news on its instant messaging platform.
  • Recently, the spread of fake news has led to mob lynching incidents in India, and the Indian government has criticized WhatsApp for not taking measures to curb misinformation.
  • Over a dozen deaths have been caused due to fake news in India, with eight incidents of death caused by lynching in the past week alone.

Facebook is offering $50,000 to researchers to study the spread of fake news in its free messaging platform WhatsApp. The social media company announced the ‘WhatsApp Research Awards’ initiative, which will be considering proposals from social science and technological perspectives that help the company understand the problem of fake news on WhatsApp.

Facebook announced the WhatsApp Research Awards stating “The WhatsApp Research Awards will provide funding for independent research proposals that are designed to be shared with WhatsApp, Facebook, and wider scholarly and policy communities. These are unrestricted monetary awards that offer investigators the freedom to deepen and extend their existing research portfolio.”

All research-backed proposals that are approved by Facebook will be eligible for grants of up to $50,000. Facebook wants researchers to focus on election-related information, the effects of virality, digital literacy, and solutions that can resolve the fake news problem.

One of the biggest roadblocks to curbing fake news is the encrypted nature of WhatsApp; all communication is secured by end-to-end encryption making it impossible for Facebook to control the issue without breaching user privacy. WhatsApp recently rolled out admin controls for groups which allow administrators to control posting permissions for each individual.

The social media company has been at the receiving end of harsh criticism in the US as well with lawmakers and the American media criticizing the social media company for not taking measures to control the problem. However, the spread of fakes news which led to violent crimes in India forced the company to take action.

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