Home WORLD WhatsApp has contributed to the global misinformation crisis. Now it is in trouble.

WhatsApp has contributed to the global misinformation crisis. Now it is in trouble.



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A few hours after WhatsApp Announced a new privacy policy For the nearly 2 billion people around the world who use it, rumors are rushing.

“Does not accept WhatsApp’s new policy,” said one of the messages that spread on the platform. “Once completed, your WhatsApp account will be linked to your Facebook account and Zuckerberg can see all your chat history.”

“In another few months, WhatsApp will release a new version that will show you ads based on your chats,” another user said. “Do not accept the new policy!”

In the days that followed, thousands of similar messages spread on Facebook’s instant messaging app WhatsApp.Attracted by celebrities like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and whistleblower Edward Snowden, millions of people Rush Download alternatives to WhatsApp, such as Signal and Telegram.

There is only one problem: From the 4,000-word policy, it is clear that the new changes only apply when people use WhatsApp to chat with businesses instead of private conversations with friends and family.

No, the new terms will not allow Facebook to read your WhatsApp chat history, the company explained to anyone who asks.Executive positions Long thread Go to twitter and give Interview Large-scale publications to India, the company’s largest market. WhatsApp spent millions of dollars on major newspapers and front-page ads in newspapers Published graphics A large “Share to WhatsApp” button is used to expose rumors on its website, hoping to inject truth into the flow of false information through its platform. According to posts on its internal message board Workplace, the company also encourages Facebook employees to share these infographics.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “There is a lot of misinformation and confusion, so we are working hard to provide accurate information on how WhatsApp protects people’s personal conversations.” “We use the status function to communicate directly with people in WhatsApp, and Dozens of languages ​​publish accurate information on social media and our website. Of course, we also provide these resources to company staff. So they can answer questions directly to friends and family as needed.”

None of them worked.

“There are a lot of misinformation that is causing concern, and we want to help everyone understand our principles and facts,” WhatsApp said in Blog post It was announced last week that the company had postponed its new privacy policy for three months. It reads: “We will also do more to eliminate misinformation about how privacy and security work on WhatsApp.”

Thank you everyone who contacted me. We are still trying to eliminate any confusion by communicating directly with @WhatsApp users. No one will suspend or delete their accounts on February 8, we will move our business plan to after May-https://t.co/H3DeSS0QfO


Over the years, rumors and hoaxes spread through WhatsApp have been Contributed to the misinformation crisis In some of the most populous countries in the world (such as Brazil and India), this app is the main way most people communicate with each other. Now, this crisis has spread to the company itself.

“Platform trust is [at a] Claire Wardle, co-founder and director of First Draft, a non-profit organization that studies disinformation, told BuzzFeed News. “Over the years, people have paid more and more attention to the power of technology companies, especially aware of how much data they are collecting from us. Therefore, when changing privacy policies, people are rightly concerned about what this means.”

Wardle said people are worried that WhatsApp will link their behavior on the app with data in their Facebook account.

“Facebook and WhatsApp have huge trust deficits,” said Pratik Sinha, founder of Alt News, an Indian fact-checking platform. “Once you have this information, any wrong information attributable to you can easily be consumed.”

Both Sinha and Wardle added that what didn’t help was ordinary people’s lack of understanding of how technology and privacy work. Wardell said: “Chaos is where misinformation floods, so people are eager to see the policy changes, and there is no doubt that many people believe this rumor.”

These misinformation patterns that have prevailed on WhatsApp for years have often caused harm. In 2013, a video circulated in the northern Indian city of Muzaffarnagar. The video allegedly showed two young men lynched to death, inciting riots between Hindus and Muslim communities and killing dozens of people.A kind Police investigation found The video has been two years old and was not even shot in India.In Brazil, fake news Flooded the platform Once favored by far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro (Jair Bolsonaro), the latter won the country’s 2018 presidential election.

However, the company did not seriously address its misinformation problem until 2018, when rumors about child kidnappers swept across the platform led to Violent Lynching Series All over India.In a statement issued at the time, the Indian IT Ministry caveat WhatsApp took legal action and stated that if the company fails to solve the problem, it will be “deemed as a teacher”, thus putting WhatsApp in a crisis. It flew from senior executives at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters to New Delhi, met with government officials and reporters, and launched a high-profile publicity campaign around misinformation.

Sam Panthaky/Getty Images

In July 2018, protested against the lynching of mobs in India. Because of WhatsApp rumors, dozens of people were lynched across the country that year, and the Indian authorities and WhatsApp were scrambling to find a solution.

It also has new features built into the app to directly offset error messages for the first time, such as Flag forwarded messages with limit The number of people or groups that can forward a piece of content to slow down the spread of viral content.Last August Also started Let people from a small number of countries upload the text of the message to Google to verify that the forwarder is a forgery. This feature is not yet available for WhatsApp users in India.

Since then, the company working Use a tool that allows users to search for images received in the app with one click in 2019, which will help people more easily perform fact-checking. But after nearly two years, there is no sign of this feature. Although so far, more than a dozen countries/regions have provided the text version, so far, India has not been included.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We are still working on the search tool function.”

WhatsApp said the company hopes to provide more information about its new privacy policy. “We hope that strengthening this update will not expand our ability to share data with Facebook. Our goal is to provide businesses with transparency and new options so that they can serve and grow with customers.” “WhatsApp will always be through end-to-end encryption. Protect personal messages so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working hard to resolve misinformation and can answer any questions at any time.”

This week, the company placed a status message at the top of the “Status” section, which is the WhatsApp equivalent of a Facebook story. Tap “Status” to display a series of news from the company, revealing the rumors.

BuzzFeed news screenshot

“WhatsApp will not share your contacts with Facebook,” the first contact said. The other two status updates indicate that WhatsApp cannot see where people are, nor can it read or listen to encrypted personal conversations. The last message said: “We are committed to protecting your privacy.”

According to internal communications reviewed by BuzzFeed News, before the weekly Q&A, employees asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg multiple questions on Thursday. Some people want to know whether the growing use of signals and telegrams is affecting WhatsApp usage and growth indicators. Others hope that the CEO will solve the question of whether Facebook uses any WhatsApp metadata to serve ads.

“You think we could have done better, clearly state [the new privacy policy] To the user? “Someone asked.

Another commented: “The public is angry with @WhatsApp PrivPolicy.” “The mistrust of FB is so high, we should be more cautious about it.”

Zuckerberg responded that he believes the company has not handled these changes well.

He said: “The short answer is no, I think we have not handled it as expected.” “And I think the team has been involved in all the work and has learned a lot of lessons to ensure that we continue to do better, and Not only on WhatsApp TOS. But you know, we also have other TOS updates for different apps and services. We need to make sure we do better in these two areas. In this way, we can minimize The number of error messages and error messages generated, and minimize the amount of confusing information caused.”

Ryan Mac provided the report.


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