Starting today, people in India can submit uncertain information or rumors they have received to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp +91-9643-000-888. Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tipline will help create a database of rumors to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp.
When a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification center will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in message shared is verified or not. The response will indicate if information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available. This center can review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text and will cover four regional languages including Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam, other than English. PROTO will also encourage grassroots organizations to submit rumors circulating across different regions in India during the election period.
Dig Deeper Media and Meedan, who have previously worked on misinformation-related projects around the world, are helping PROTO to develop the verification and research frameworks for India. Meedan has developed the technology to support the verification of rumors and will maintain the database of rumors that have been processed. To do so, they have expanded their Check platform (developed for recent elections in Mexico and France) and integrated it with the WhatsApp Business API, to receive and respond to messages at scale.
PROTO’s founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi said: “The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale — natively in WhatsApp. As more data flows in, we will be able to identify the most susceptible or affected issues, locations, languages, regions, and more. The verification reports we send back will encourage our grassroots-level “listening posts” to send more signals for analysis.” Following the project, PROTO plans to submit learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organizations learn from the design and operations of this project.
“The research from this initiative will help create a global benchmarks for those wishing to tackle misinformation in their own markets. This is also innovation in verifying data around elections in a way that is accessible to those who need it in exactly the place they need it,” said Fergus Bell, Founder & CEO, Dig Deeper Media.
The challenge of viral misinformation requires more collaborative efforts and cannot be solved by any one organization alone. This combined effort by WhatsApp and industry organisations will help contribute to the safety of the elections, by giving people means to know if the information is verified and deter people from sharing rumors that have no basis in fact.