In Conversation with WhatsApp

Fergus Bell, the founder and CEO of Dig Deeper Media, spoke with Carl Woog, the Head of Communications at WhatsApp, on Thursday in a conversation about collaborations between WhatsApp and newsrooms around the world. 
The pair discussed various initiatives that WhatsApp is taking to tackle the spread of misinformation in India, Brazil, and Mexico. 
Bell spoke on the recently developed Checkpoint Tipline project, a collaboration between WhatsApp, Dig Deeper Media, and the local Indian start-up Proto that allows users in India to check the veracity of messages sent via WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India, and Woog highlighted that its Indian users use the ‘forward’ feature far more than other users around the world. This has led to concerns about the rapid dissemination of fake news in the run-up to the country’s national elections this month. 
The Checkpoint Tipline projects seeks to collect information about the spread of misinformation in India by spotting and stopping digital viral rumours at the local level before they reach a national audience. Users can send WhatsApp messages that have been forwarded to them to a ‘verification research tipline’, which uses data-analysis techniques to assess whether a given claim is accurate. 
Bell also discussed similar initiatives in Brazil and Mexico undertaken by Pop-Up Newsroom, a project founded by Dig Deeper Media and Meedan, which uses open source technologies to better understand the challenges facing journalism in the digital age. 
Woos ended by answering audience questions about the steps that WhatsApp is taking to protect user privacy. He also answered questions about the risks of the use of WhatsApp as a political organising forum.
He outlined new rules implemented by the platform that limit the number of people that a message can be forwarded to, in an attempt to prevent the platform from becoming a tool for ‘broadcast’ rather than for private communication. He also discussed a new feature that now allows users to be asked for their consent before they are added to WhatsApp chat groups. 
“We are trying to stay true to our roots as a private communications platform,” Woos emphasised. 
The full talk can be view here:

Priscille Biehlmann – volunteer press office 2019