After hoax messages circulated on WhatsApp triggered several incidents of mob lynchings in recent weeks in India, the Facebook-owned messaging platform published full-page advertisements in leading Indian newspapers advising users on how to identify false information.
The ads, published in English- and Hindi-language newspapers on Tuesday, came soon after Indian authorities asked WhatsApp to act immediately to curb the spread of false information.
Since May the lynchings of at least 24 people accused of being child kidnappers have been linked to the platform, used by more than 200 million Indians. Many other accused child kidnappers survived dozens of other mob attacks with injuries. Police found that mass-circulated WhatsApp messages carrying fake information about child kidnappers being on the prowl in the areas triggered almost all the attacks.
Last week, after Indian government sought “immediate action” from WhatsApp to stem the flow of false information, the company said it was “horrified” by the “terrible acts of violence” and would act to curb its abuse.
The full-page newspaper advertisements began with the line “Together we can fight false information” and carried 10 tips on how to spot fake news.
The tips included checking information with other sources, looking at photos carefully because they could be edited in a misleading way and thinking twice before sharing a message if you are not sure it is true.
“Fake news often goes viral,” read one tip while noting “Just because a message is shared many times does not make it true.”
This week WhatsApp also added a new feature which will label all forward messages as such, to let the receivers know that it was not created by the sender.
WhatsApp also said it had started an “education campaign” in India to spot fake news and rumours. “Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages,” the statement said. “We will build on these efforts.”
This story originally appeared in The Guardian. Image courtesy of Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images.