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WhatsApp should add a “doubt” button to combat fake news: Report

Just as the 'like' function that exists on Facebook, it would be easy for WhatsApp to add such a feature. This feature can be in the form of a 'red flag' or '?' emoji button. Check out more details here.

  • Published: January 30, 2020 12:33 PM IST
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A simple “button” to express doubt on the claims made on WhatsApp posts is enough to combat fake news. As an alternative, enabling users to easily flag statements as problematic, unreliable, or groundless may also be helpful. The company can cut the spread of misinformation with any of the two options as per an India-focused study. Just as the ‘like’ function that exists on Facebook, it would be easy for WhatsApp to add such a feature. This feature can be in the form of a ‘red flag’ or ‘?’ emoji button. Users can easily click on the buttons next to any contentious post. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Leiden University, IE University conducted the study.

A study suggests solutions to WhatsApp to fight fake news; details

“Such a strategy would be entirely compatible with the encrypted nature of the platform,” states the report. This is because WhatsApp does not need to report or investigate ‘red flags’. These buttons will only inform other users that a variety of opinions exist among participants. Countering the spread of misinformation among Indian users of the Facebook-owned platform is a huge challenge. This is because WhatsApp can’t see the content of the messages due to the end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption only allows the sender and receiver of the messages to view the content.

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The company has also taken a number of steps to reduce the spread of fake news. This also includes limiting the number of forwards to five, running awareness campaigns on the dangers of fake news and more. Some of the measures came after reports of dozens of deaths linked to rumors spread on WhatsApp emerged in India. “Our findings suggest that though user-driven corrections work, merely signaling a doubt about a claim may go a long way in reducing misinformation. This has implications for both users and platforms!,” one of the study authors Sumitra Badrinathan from the University of Pennsylvania in the US said on Twitter.

For the study, the researchers experimentally evaluated the effect of different corrective on-platform messages on the persistence of common rumors. Researchers also analyzed over 5,000 social media users in India. “Our main analysis above overall suggests that exposure to a fact-checking message posted by an unidentified thread participant is enough to significantly reduce rates of belief in a false claim,” said the study. “Any expression of incredulity about a false claim posted on a thread leads to a reduction in self-reported belief,” it added.

With inputs from IANS.

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  • Published Date: January 30, 2020 12:33 PM IST