Despite the positive effects of online social communities, easy access has led to a spread of so-called “fake news,” where false stories are forwarded among family members and friends. To manage such abuse, WhatsApp, a messaging platform, has launched a campaign in India to filter out such messages by deleting 2 million spam accounts per month.
Another WhatsApp tactic: limiting the number of recipients to whom a message can be forwarded to five. This restriction, made global in January of this year, resulted from false rumors circulating on WhatsApp about a family of alleged child kidnappers, which led to a shocking mob lynching in India. There have been growing concerns about misinformation and libelous content leading to a tense political environment.
As India heads towards its 2019 general elections, the government has already threatened to consider the WhatsApp company an abettor to crimes such as spreading false information and instigating violence. Other countries, includings Brazil, have complained about this problem.
Regulations can do only so much, however. In addition, the company governing What’s App has encouraged users to be watchdogs by reporting accounts that send messages in bulk, so as to weed out perpetrators. Public attention in this regard is much needed and much appreciated. Truth is, the spread of fake news can be dangerous and must be stopped.