WhatsApp launches TV campaign in India to crack down on fake news

After radio, WhatsApp will now run a television ad campaign in India -- a global first for the Facebook-owned company -- as it looks to crackdown spread of fake news on its platform ahead of the general elections in the country next year.

WhatsApp, in a statement, said it has conducted extensive research with users in India and then developed three ad films that are based on a real user's experience.

"The three films will be available on TV, Facebook, and YouTube in nine languages and reach the diverse population that makes up WhatsApp users. The campaign is timed to start just prior to the elections in Rajasthan and Telangana and WhatsApp will build on this effort headed into the national election next year," the statement added.

These languages include English, Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Assamese, Gujarati, Marathi and Malayalam.

The latest campaign comprises three 60-second films that convey real scenarios about dangerous rumours that spread via spam among family and school groups, WhatsApp said in a statement.

It added that in each film, the protagonist teaches someone important in their lives to not spread rumours and to use WhatsApp controls such as the ability to leave groups that could be propagating misinformation and how to block unknown senders.

These ads will run on a diverse numbers of channel including news and cinema, and will be followed up by online and print ads as well.

The Facebook-owned company has been on an overdrive after it faced severe criticism from the government over circulation of fake news on its platform that incited multiple incidents of mob lynching across the country.

In August, WhatsApp had rolled out radio campaigns across various Indian states, asking people to check the veracity of information received as a forward before they share it with others.

In its statement, WhatsApp highlighted that the private messaging app is designed to help friends and family communicate as well as help users connect with a business that is important to them.

"WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of users in India and is committed to help addressing the challenge of misinformation in India by empowering users with new controls and working with local partners to step up education on this challenge," it added.

WhatsApp, which has been slapped with two notices by the government earlier this year to check the spread of fake news, has taken a series of measures, including restricting the number of forwards and added forward' label to help users identify such messages. It is also in the process of establishing a local corporate entity.

Besides, WhatsApp continues to strengthen its spam detection capabilities and ban accounts that engage in unwanted automated activity.

The company has, however, not accepted government's demand for traceability of messages saying creating such a software will go against the idea of user privacy and end-to-end encryption.

With general elections slated to be held next year in India, the government is taking a tough stance on use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for spread of misinformation.

The government had warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not put in place.

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