Facing criticism for the misuse of its platform which ranged from casual rumours to deadly lynchings, WhatsApp has launched its first ever TV campaign in India.
The instant messaging giant has expanded its effort to address the challenge of bad rumours and misinformation, starting with newspaper ads and then moving on to radio campaigns, to create awareness among its users. The first stage of the campaign was kicked off on August 29 with ads across over 46 radio stations of the All India Radio (AIR) in states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The second stage of the campaign which commenced on September 5 with radio ads across 83 AIR radio stations in Assam, Tripura, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
And for the TV campaign, WhatsApp said it worked alongside with filmmaker Shirsha Guha Thakurta to develop three 60 second films that each carries real scenarios about bad rumours that can spread among its users. You can watch all three mini-movies in English and Hindi right here.
Timed to start just before the Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Telangana, the films will be made available on TV, YouTube and Facebook in nine languages, the company said, adding that it would build on this struggle to prepare for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“We are humbled by the impact that WhatsApp had on people’s ability to connect with their loved ones freely. We also recognise at the same time connecting people can lead to the spread of rumours and misinformation, which has to be confronted,” said Bosco Zubiaga, who led the production of these films for WhatsApp.
The rumours spread on the instant messaging platform which has over 200 million users in India alone have been linked to different lynching incidents in the country, forcing the government to send a stern message to the company.
“We’re hoping that this campaign will help to educate users on how to stay safe on WhatsApp,” Zubiaga said.
Each film’s main character teaches someone important in their lives to not spread fake news and to use WhatsApp controls such as the means to leave groups where such rumour is circulated and block unknown senders.
After meeting WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in August, Union IT Minister Ravo Shakar Prasad said that the company must comply with the law and take responsible steps to prevent its misuse.
Over the last couple of months, WhatsApp has made a series of changes including labelling forwarded messages to inform its users whenever they have received something that is not from their immediate contact and set limits on how transmitted messages can be sent. And also, it bans accounts that engage in an unwanted automated activity.