How a Start-Up Fought against WhatsApp Fake News and Prevented Two Disasters in Chennai
4 August 2018 (New Jersey) – When Verify.Wiki LLC – a start-up that fights False News via a methodology known as”reverse virality “- by combining crowdsourcing with social networking- noticed the recent lynching incidents in India due to False WhatsApp messages, it immediately sprang into action. The company picked Chennai as a pilot city to check if it could prevent another tragedy.
The company noticed two suspected False News stories circulating through WhatsApp on July 13th, 2018, one asking people to punish a school teacher in Perambur, Chennai for hitting and kicking little children, and another circulating a young female doctor’s photo, claiming she was treating patients for free in Chennai. Both these posts went viral on WhatsApp and Facebook in Chennai.
Siva Nadarajah, an adviser and investor at Verify.Wiki who recently requested the company to help with the lethal False News crisis in India, says, “The team immediately kicked off the pilot. They first learnt that the video that became circulated was from a school in Egypt, recorded in 2014, not from Perambur, Chennai. They also quickly uncovered the other story about the doctor was also false, circulated by a person who steals profile images of young women from Facebook.”
As soon as the stories were proven to be fake via crowdsourced research, Verify.Wiki said its “reverse virality” approach ensured the propagation of the False News was stopped within hours. With reverse virality, the corrected version of the False News, was propagated back through the same path the story originated, via WhatsApp and Facebook, targeting those who might have consumed the False News.
“We were able to stop both the False News stories within a few hours. We also noticed the propagation of those two false stories completely stopping within 24 hours”, added Siva Nadarajah.
Siva Nadarajah further added, “Imagine if Wikipedia and Facebook had a baby. You combine crowdsourcing with social networking. It’s so effective when it comes to transparency and credibility in fighting False News. We stopped seven False News stories just within two weeks of our pilot in Chennai. Some are harmless and some are deadly. The nice thing is anyone can anonymously submit a suspected False News and everyone can participate in the verification activities. It’s a democratic process to fight False News.”
Facebook, the parent company of WhatsApp recently took full page newspaper advertisements to warn people of Fake News propagating via WhatsApp, after lynching incidents killed dozens of people across India.