24 newsrooms in Brazil to fact-check WhatsApp ahead of elections

MANILA, Philippines – WhatsApp recently made headlines for its role in the spread of false information and spam messages that eventually sparked violence in countries such as India and Sri Lanka.

In response, the Facebook-owned messaging app has introduced local fact-checking teams to verify the information being distributed on the service.

With the country’s October 7 national election on the horizon, 24 newsrooms around Brazil have joined forces to monitor the misinformation and disinformation in WhatsApp.

Called Comprova, the collaborative will “collect tips, respond to rumors and information that it finds spreading, publish stories, and sometimes report collectively” – similar to its 90-organization strong Mexican counterpart, Verificado.

Comprova, however, will receive some help from WhatsApp, now having access to the newly launched Business application programming interface (API). This provides the newsrooms better communication with their readers, allowing them to respond to submissions or refute false information at a “greater scale.”

The problem is information on what rumors are spreading, at what speed, and by what means remain inaccessible to Comprova. WhatsApp, in a statement, clarified that they can’t reveal the content of messages being shared in their platform.

“With about 120 million Brazilians using WhatsApp, it is the primary communication platform for most people, and as a result all kinds of information flows across the platform, including misinformation,” Claire Wardle, who leads First Draft, an initiative dedicated to fighting mis- and disinformation, said.

“Comprova gives us a real opportunity to understand the role WhatsApp plays in Brazil, particularly how voters use it to during an election campaign," Wardle added.

Comprova is receiving funding and technical assistance from the Google News Initiative and Facebook Journalism Project. It is also receiving some support from Abraji, the Brazilian investigative journalists association, and the journalism institute, Projor.

WhatsApp, in an effort to fight the spread of false information within its platform, previously imposed limits on how many groups a message can be forwarded to. – Rappler.com