With the advent of the internet, networking has become easier than ever before. Content shared gets viral easily and then no one even bothers to verify if it’s true or not. Considering WhatsApp the widely used social networking mobile application globally has been a proven medium for the dissemination of fake news. For instance, India in the year 2018 witnessed more than 22 deaths by the mob under the child kidnapping and slaughtering rumours spread over WhatsApp.
Taking it globally, the October presidential elections in Brazil did bear the consequences of fake news being spread through the internet. It was found in a study that more than half out of 50 top pictures carried the manipulative, misleading and completely out of context images that affected the opinion of people about the candidates.
Indeed the ‘fake news’ market has got mediums to travel along, but how are we combatting these challenges? WhatsApp messenger last year in July introduced a feature in India after the pressure put on by the government concerning for increasing mob lynching cases in India. It added a “forwarded” tag over the messages which are just toggling from one person to another person or group. Also, it put a limit on the number of recipients for the same message to 20 which is now finally implemented globally with the limit of 5 recipients at a time.
Acknowledging the actions WhatsApp took, the fight against fake news is still not over as there are other online mediums as well whose content cannot be controlled. Also, the messenger has just lowered the speed of message dissemination as people by putting more efforts can still spread the false content. As per their claim, around 65 billion messages are exchanged every day.
Ironically, we humans often seek to use the innovative technologies for misleading purposes. Fake news can cost people their lives which is quite evident with mob lynching case in the southern part of India where a couple got killed by locals on the suspicious child kidnapping.
Fight against the fake news monster is not as simple to restrict the number of recipients but it also requires the necessary education to be given to masses which WhatsApp is also be doing through social awareness advertisements on television. Pondering over the root cause, complete anonymity is the real cause. The person who has initiated such fake content’s distribution couldn’t get into the hands of authorities.
Undoubtedly, WhatsApp has a long way to go as the rapidly changing technology of the internet and networking, the correct way of censoring the platform is known by none.