WhatsApp launches fact-check service to fight fake news during India polls

WhatsApp on Tuesday launched a service for Indians to check the veracity of information, in the messaging platform’s latest attempt to combat fake news in India ahead of national elections beginning this month.

WhatsApp said in a statement it was working with local startup Proto to classify messages sent to the service by users as true, false, misleading or disputed. They will also build a database of such content to better understand misinformation.

The move comes as WhatsApp, with over 200 million users in India, battles criticism of its platform being used for the spread of misinformation, while social media companies across the board work to prevent the phenomenon – particularly during sensitive events such as elections.

WhatsApp owner Facebook Inc said on Monday it had deleted 712 accounts and 390 pages in India and Pakistan for “inauthentic behavior”, saying many were linked to India’s opposition Congress party and others related to Pakistan’s military.

The first phase of India’s elections are scheduled to begin on April 11, with final results expected on May 23.

Major Indian political parties have accused each other of propagating fake news on WhatsApp while denying they do so themselves. In February, a senior WhatsApp executive said parties were trying to use the app in “ways for which it was not intended”.

WhatsApp had a similar challenge during Brazilian elections last year, when politicians had faced claims of spreading falsehoods on the platform.

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