The move comes as the Facebook-owned app continues to respond to pressure from the Indian Government which has warned the platform of possible legal consequences if it fails to address this issue.
Back in July, WhatsApp took out full page advertisements in India’s newspapers offering advice on media literacy, followed by radio ads in August. The new 60-second video ads take a similar approach, the Business Standard reported, featuring a protagonist teaching someone not to spread rumours and to use various WhatsApp controls, such as blocking unknown senders or leaving groups propagating misinformation.
The ‘share joy, not rumours’ ads will appear on Facebook and YouTube as well as TV and will be available in nine languages.
“The campaign is timed to start just prior to the elections in Rajasthan and Telangana and WhatsApp will build on this effort headed into the national election next year,” the company said in a statement.
Whether media literacy is enough is a moot point: a recent BBC study identified rising nationalist sentiment and the cheap cost of data as factors in sharing of fake news.
People understand there are more credible and less credible sources, the researchers said, and they may well care about consuming correct information – but when users are on digital platforms and contending with a flood of information, “they simply cannot be bothered”.
Meanwhile, a partnership between WhatsApp and Jio launched in September is steadily building a significant user base across the country, as roadshows pitch the messaging platform and the cheap Reliance Jio wireless network as an easy first step into the internet for the many millions of Indian who are not yet online.
“At the same time, they’re creating the foundation on which businesses like online retail, digital payments and food delivery can be built,” noted Bloomberg.
Sourced from Business Standard, BBC, Financial Express; additional content by WARC staff