MUMBAI (Reuters) – Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform on Tuesday published advertisements in key Indian newspapers to tackle the spread of misinformation, its first such effort to combat a flurry of fake messages that prompted mob lynchings.
Beatings and deaths triggered by false incendiary messages in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users, caused a public relations nightmare, sparking calls from authorities for immediate action.
“Together we can fight false information,” read full-page advertisements in some top English language-newspapers, part of a series that will also feature in regional-language dailies.
It urged users to check information before sharing it and cautioned them about the spread of fake news.
“We are starting an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumors,” a WhatsApp spokesman said in a statement.
“Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages. We will build on these efforts.”
During the week, it aims to publish similar advertisements in regional dailies across India, from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the west to the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in the north, it added.
On Tuesday, WhatsApp also rolled out a new feature that will label forwarded messages as such, indicating to receivers that the sender is not the creator of the message.
WhatsApp has previously said it is giving users controls and information to help them stay safe, and that it plans to run long-term public safety advertising campaigns to rein in false messages.
(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Euan Rocha)