WhatsApp fake news tip line is not a hotline but research project, clarifies fact-checking agency

“Proto, the company tasked with fact checking on WhatsApp, has explicitly confirmed that they cannot verify every article sent”

The WhatsApp fact checking tip line is first and foremost a research project and not a fact checking agency. Proto, the media skilling startup tasked with the mammoth responsibility of taking forward WhatsApp’s fight against fake news and counterfeit content, has stated that its primary task at hand is to actually understand the dynamics of fake news at how information is misused.

The company has further clarified that despite it being a public tip line, not every user that reports a piece of content will receive responses. Multiple publications have reported that content that was flagged by them and posted to the helpline received no response even after hours. The same has been clarified by a WhatsApp spokesperson, who stated that the announcement did not mean every piece of reported content would receive a response on the tip line. As of now, it is unclear as to what percentage of these reports are being individually verified.

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While the announcement spoke of how the service would help people verify the information source of reports in order to stay away from misinformation, the FAQ posted by Proto on their website states that the project will come of more use in gathering data about how fake news and misinformation is spread. As of now, the service will focus on publicly available and accessible information to examine content and not go beyond such sources. It is also not clear what technology Proto uses in their bid to help WhatsApp fight fake news.

It remains to be seen how big an impact this manages to have on WhatsApp and its fake news problem. While creating a large database of misinformation is a good place to start with in terms of future usage, the primary target of fake news filtering when it comes to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections remains up for debate.

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