WhatsApp Prepares For India’s Election

WhatsApp
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Date 21 July 2018 (Photo: 1pratikyadav / Wikimedia Commons)

WhatsApp said in a statement that they are prepared for the upcoming election in India, the biggest in the world. The Facebook-owned platform will use its AI tools to detect and screen accounts that might spread "problematic content" through mass messaging.

The platform with at least 200 million users is powerful in India. In 2018, the company became the center of a debate over viral hoax messages which spread misinformation in the country. The country's upcoming election, with more than 800 million Indians who were illegible to vote, is approaching and the company has deployed its artificial intelligence to secure its platform. The company warned India's political parties against spreading political spam messages on its platform. The company threatened the parties that they will block their accounts if they try to abuse the platform during the campaign.

Carl Woog, the spokesperson of WhatsApp, told reporters in New Delhi that they saw how parties tried to reach people over the platform and in some cases that involved attempting to use it in a way that it was not intended to be used. He added that they have engaged with political parties to explain their view that the platform is not a broadcast platform and it is not a place to send messages at scale and explain to the parties that they will ban the accounts that engage in suspicious behavior.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also a prolific user of the platform and he is currently running for his second term in office in this upcoming election. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and its rivals used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp during the 2014 election. Social media sites are expected to play a bigger role in this election.

WhatsApp's reputation was dented by the mob violence and the issues of misinformation in its platform. The company went viral in 2018 after they attempted to spread fake rumors by labeling messages that are forwarded instead of being composed by the sender. The company also imposed limits on the number of simultaneous chats a message can be forwarded to.

The company campaigned to raise awareness about misinformation by gathering posts from the newspaper, radio, and television ads. The campaign targeted first-time internet users in India. The named the campaign as "Share Joy, Not Rumors" and they are planning to bring the campaign to other countries including Brazil, and Indonesia. WhatsApp works to address the issue of abuse on their platform. However, the company did not agree to the Indian government's remands to trace individual "harmful" messages and to take down "unlawful" content within 24 hours.

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