WhatsApp launches research funding of up to $50,000 to fight fake news menace

The company states that no WhatsApp data will be provided to award recipients.

WhatsApp has become an extremely essential way to communicate with anyone in the world. The platform has managed to garner over 1.5 billion users across 180 countries. India itself is a hub of 200 million users. There are many plus points to WhatsApp. It's free, available on multiple devices and also has reached places where there's low connectivity.

But now, as WhatsApp reaches a critical mass in India, it has also become one of the top social platforms to share fake news. Over the last few years we have seen the repercussions of the spread of fake news on the platform. Recently, five people were killed due to a mob lynching in Maharashtra, after they were incited following a fake video that was shared via WhatsApp. There are a number of cases of mob violence, lynchings and other types of acts that have been caused due to the rumours that spread on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp. Reuters.

WhatsApp. Reuters.

In order to tackle this massive spread of false and unverified news, the Facebook-owned company is now set to commision a set of new global awards to invite researchers to participate and come up with solutions for tackling the fake news issue.

According to a report by the company, WhatsApp is now incentivising an entire programme called WhatsApp Research Awards for Social Science and Misinformation that will fund independent research proposals which gives a method to analyse data with respect to the spread of information.

“WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users. Through this new project, we look forward to working with leading academic experts in India to learn more about how online platforms are used to spread misinformation. This local research will help us build upon recent changes we have made within WhatsApp and support broad education to help people spot false news and hoaxes,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

The company states that no WhatsApp data will be provided to award recipients and all the data from the award research efforts will be owned by the researcher solely.

WhatsApp has taken 5 core areas that it wants to explore like election-related information, the spread of misinformation stemming from WhatsApp network and detection of problematic behaviour.

The WhatsApp Research Awards will act as a benefactor offering up to $50,000 per research proposal.

Also, the company would invite the award recipients to attend two workshops on how WhatsApp works and also encouraging them to share their research works with other awardees to collaborate and eliminate fake new from its roots.

The applications for applying to this award are due by 12 August. Applicants will be notified about further actions via email by 15 September.

With inputs from Press Trust of India.

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