Fight WhatsApp Disinfo With Volunteer Fact-checking

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5 mins read

Fight WhatsApp disinfo with volunteer fact checking

Counter disinfo and conspiracy theories on WhatsApp with volunteer fact checking

WhatsApp messages are encrypted, spread instantly through closed groups making it the ideal platform for spreading disinfo.

People trust messages posted on their WhatsApp closed groups. These groups are members-only and invisible to external fact checkers unlike open Facebook and Twitter threads. The danger of disinfo is especially acute in Hispanic, Asian and other groups who use WhatsApp to make free overseas calls. Conspiracy theories, and disinfo to undermine democracy and promote violence thrive on WhatsApp.

Disinfo is intentionally disguised to appear true making it hard for people to spot the lies before sharing it with others on WhatsApp. This blog explains how grassroots groups are countering WhatsApp disinfo with volunteer based fact checking to quickly respond to disinfo. Their approach does not require new apps, investment nor mass training but can still respond to disinfo in different languages in a culturally appropriate manner.

Disinfo spread on WhatsApp

How disinfo is spread on closed WhatsApp groups

Why is disinfo on WhatsApp so dangerous?

WhatsApp, because it’s fast, simple, and much more intimate compared to Facebook. “People belong to tight-knit groups on WhatsApp such as a friends group and a family group,” said Harsh Taneja, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism whose research focuses on audience behavior and internet use. “But digital networks like WhatsApp are designed to connect us tightly with groups of acquaintances too, who we may not otherwise have interacted with frequently.”

These “weak ties”, as Taneja calls them, are the reason why information spreads rapidly on closed networks like WhatsApp. “Most misinformation that originates within WhatsApp finds its way through this tight-knit network of weak ties,” Taneja said. But it’s tough to analyze WhatsApp. The messaging platform is encrypted end-to-end with no API, algorithms, or trending topics  — which means that it’s virtually impossible to track exactly how content spreads through it. – BuzzFeed

Volunteer driven fact checking counters WhatsApp disinfo

Counter disinfo being spread on WhatsApp with volunteer fact checking

Countering WhatsApp disinfo

DesiFacts.org is a nonprofit fighting disinfo. “Mis- and disinformation widens the partisan divide. Erodes trust in our democracy. Stifles and prevents voter participation. Endangers health by spreading COVID disinfo. In South Asian communities, misinformation has fueled Islamophobia and racism against other communities of color.” They’re using a simple, but highly effective approach to fight back.

  • Determine the accuracy of a meme you saw on WhatsApp
  • Find resources to share truthful content on your own platforms
  • volunteer to curb the spread of mis/disinformation in your communities to verify information and fight misinformation

Volunteers are asked to report dubious or questionable posts, memes ad videos they see in their WhatsApp groups. Trained DesiFacts volunteers check the accuracy of the information and post the facts into a private WhatsApp group. Members of the closed WhatsApp group get the correct info from the DesiFacts group and then post it into their closed group to counter the disinfo being spread. Fast, simple and cost-effective. Try it!

Learn More about Desi Facts

Classifying WhatsApp disinfo

How DesiFacts classifies disinfo
Source: DesiFacts

Fighting disinfo resources

TakeAway: Fight disinfo. Check the facts before you share posts on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Deepak
DemLabs


DISCLAIMER:
 ALTHOUGH THE DATA FOUND IN THIS BLOG AND INFOGRAPHIC HAS BEEN PRODUCED AND PROCESSED FROM SOURCES BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, NO WARRANTY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED CAN BE MADE REGARDING THE ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, LEGALITY OR RELIABILITY OF ANY SUCH INFORMATION. THIS DISCLAIMER APPLIES TO ANY USES OF THE INFORMATION WHETHER ISOLATED OR AGGREGATE USES THEREOF.
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Reposted from Democracy Labs with permission.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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