WhatsApp seems to be in the eye of the storm as far as the Indian market it concerned after the platform is being used to spread fake news and misinformation in the public sphere. The platform came under fire after a number of reports emerged in past months where the misinformation resulted in mob lynching and actual real-world physical harm. Ever since the initial reports hit, WhatsApp has announced a number of changes to the platform including work on new features that will help it combat the menace of fake news. The Government of India also asked the platform to take concrete steps to fight the problem.
As part of its ongoing efforts, according to a report by The Economic Times, some senior executives from US headquarters of WhatsApp along with executives responsible for the India operations met the Election Commission. The report goes on to add that the reason for the meeting was to ensure that WhatsApp is not misused during the upcoming election cycle. The report pointed out that WhatsApp is looking into “spam messaging techniques” as it prepares for the upcoming state polls scheduled at the end of the year.
Spam detection technology
The company added that the spam detection will be used to check spam messages right from the time when the “model code of conduct” comes into effect, to especially 48 hours before the polling starts. It will also bring the fake news verification model that was used during the general elections in Mexico. The model with the name “Verificado” was a collective fact-checking mission during elections. The company is also conducting a similar exercise in Brazil.
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As previously reported, the company is already working on a new feature in its latest beta versions that will make suspicious links alerting users that they are visiting a suspicious website if they try to open the link. The report went on to add that the WhatsApp team comprised of researchers along with executives that were responsible for customer operations, public policy, and business development.
Officials working for the Election Commission noted that WhatsApp had agreed “to maintain high vigilance through the period the model code of conduct is in force”. WhatsApp promised that it will increase its efforts 48 hours before the polling is scheduled to begin.
2019 General Elections in India
The reason 48 hours is being this much emphasis is that election commission ensures that campaigns for polls are stopped 48-hours before the polling starts. WhatsApp also pointed out that it is committed to the end-to-end encryption to protect the privacy of its users. The company added that whatever it learns from the monitoring efforts during the state elections, will be used “to frame a broader approach for general elections” that are set to take place in 2019.
That is not all as WhatsApp executives also met the big banks in the country for its “peer-to-peer digital payments solution.” The report added that executives from Facebook also met the Election Commission back in June. WhatsApp is also working on a new method called “upstream detection” where the company is planning to weed out “suspicious users at the registration stage”.
As part of “upstream detection”, machine learning will generate sequential numbers to create groups. These sequential numbers are generally generated when anyone “buys several SIMS at one go from a telecom company”. This news comes right after the company announced changes to its Forward feature.