Whether it was the features to detect spying on the new 2000 rupee notes or whether it is news about Salman Khan’s marriage. Fake news finds more hits on WhatsApp. WhatsApp has 200 million active users in India, and riveting headlines make for interesting forwards among many users.
Image Credit: youtube
WhatsApp has many advantageous uses. Charitable organisations help animals, the weak and the poor by running informal groups, families stay in touch and it is also a good way to connect with your school and college alumni. Many workplaces also use to coordinate their projects.
While it has many benefits, WhatsApp has a darker side too. Misinformation, disinformation, rumours and false messages can go viral. Fake messages spread on WhatsApp have led to mobs lynching innocent people.
There are no laws in India to verify the authenticity of news. And sometimes, the forward may not be as harmless as the uses of bitter gourd. It may actually have tragic consequences, like it has happened before.
In a village just outside of New Delhi, the local cow protection group got an alert of a man, Mohammed Akhlaq, who had supposedly killed a cow and stored its meat in his house. That information has yet to be verified, but it triggered a deadly mob lynching.
Image Credit: 99mag
While communal and ethnic tensions are already present in India, WhatsApp may help to amplify these issues. Indian authorities are on the backfoot when it comes to even beginning to deal with the challenges posed by the misuse of WhatsApp. Technologically, and even in terms of regulation, law enforcement officials are struggling to catch up.
The key challenge to monitoring WhatsApp could be its full proof feature of encryption. It not only ensures privacy of data, but makes it impossible to get to the root, the source, of some of the most dangerous messages being shared on the app.
Digital spread and social media requires an alert conscience in each of us, if fake news is to be countered. So, before you hit the forward button, take caution of its power.