A few days back, WhatsApp launched a tip line in India to tackle the spread of fake news and misinformation in the country during election season.
But as it turns out, the hotline is not exactly a portal to debunk fake news. Instead, it is a data collection tool to help WhatsApp gather misleading information shared on its platform.
When BuzzFeed News contacted Pronto, WhatsApp’s partner in the Checkpoint Tipline project, the agency clarified that its service was “not a helpline” but a research project.
After the inquiry, FAQs were uploaded to Pronto, which further confirmed the above allegation. Here’s what the FAQs state:
The tip line will not provide responses to all users during the general election in India, confirmed WhatsApp via Buzzfeed.
Pronto’s website further suggests that if users report an already checked rumor, users will receive a quick response stating verifying whether the information is true or false.
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If a rumor is new and within the scope of Pronto’s research, the agency may take up to 24 hours for verification. Whereas for hoaxes that are not covered by this research, users will receive an “out of scope” message.
Furthermore, the overall response of the tip line is very slow. Even after 48 hours of reporting messages, no verification was received.
This suggests that the research team at present is probably not equipped to handle a deluge of messages and their “data collection” process will take a long time to actually start working as a tip line for verifying fake news.