NEW DELHI: Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which has been blamed for the inability to fight fake news says it was commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers to find out why misinformation spreads on the platform like wildfire in India.
To enhance its understanding of the safety problems of users, WhatsApp announced “unrestricted monetary awards” of up to $50,000 per research proposal which is approximately Rs 34,44,500 to social scientists and research groups to combat the spread of “misinformation” leading to lynching of tens of people across the country.
“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,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.
“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,” the statement added.
The “WhatsApp Research Awards” will provide funding for independent research proposals that are designed to be shared with WhatsApp, Facebook, and wider scholarly and policy communities, the company said in a blog post.
Applications are welcome from individuals with established experience studying online interaction and information technologies, as well as from persons seeking to expand their existing research into these areas,” explains the social messaging platform.
Applications for the proposal are due by August 12, 2018.
All research projects/ applications sent will be reviewed by WhatsApp research staff, with consultation from external experts. “Payment will be made to the proposer’s host university or organization as an unrestricted gift,” the company said.
Since June 2017, at least 31 persons across 10 states in India have been lynched by violent mobs because of fake news distributed through forwarded WhatsApp messages.