With misinformation spread on WhatsApp leading to killing of tens of people across the country and the government taking a note of the situation, the Facebook-owned messaging service says it would fund research to find out why misinformation spreads on the platform like wildfire in India.
The IT Ministry on Tuesday asked WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India, to take necessary remedial measures to prevent proliferation of fake and at times motivated/sensational messages on its platform.
To enhance its understanding of the safety problems of users, WhatsApp said it was commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp in India.
“WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users. Through this new project, we look forward to working with leading academic experts in India to learn more about how online platforms are used to spread misinformation,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.
“This local research will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education to help people spot false news and hoaxes,” the statement added.
The “WhatsApp Research Awards” will provide funding for independent research proposals that are designed to be shared with WhatsApp, Facebook, and wider scholarly and policy communities, the company said in a blog post.
The programme will make unrestricted awards of up to $50,000 per research proposal, WhatsApp said, adding that it was seeking proposals that explore the factors that lead to promotion of fake information including election-related msinformation.