Mobile Internet

WhatsApp to play an important role in this year’s election

WhatsApp on mobile phone

WhatsApp in India is the biggest chatting application. It is not really a myth that WhatsApp is facing a problem of containing messages that have fake information. It is really a problem in India. India is a country where growth in terms of mobile users and Internet users has gone up rapidly. There are many things which have changed in the last five years. There have been many noticeable changes while some of the changes go under the radar.

However, this year is the year of elections. The general elections are just months away and the campaigns are going on in full swing. India is a nation where over 200 million people use WhatsApp, a communication medium which is too huge to ignore. The political parties in Indian are making the most of it. Internet users have skyrocketed since the last election. The reason for the same is cheap data plans and cheaper smartphones.

That said, WhatsApp has been facing a lot of problems due to misinformation spread across the app. There is messages typed and fake news being circulated as we speak and WhatsApp can do little about it. It has created advertisements which air on the TV and banners all around which read “Spread joy, not rumors”. That is all WhatsApp can do when it comes to messages being spread but it has gone out of its way and blocked as many as six million accounts which were guilty of such things. Apart from this the app now allows an only a limited number of forwards.

However, misinformation spread right now is at its peak. This is because of the recent events in Kashmir and elections coming in just months. One can forward the message to only five chats but imagine five groups with 256 people (which is the maximum capacity of a WhatsApp group) means that one can forward to 1280 people within seconds and a few taps. This is where the problem lies.

There are group invitation links, which is how people get into groups. One just has to tap on the link and you are in that WhatsApp group and sharing your number with 255 other people. Political parties have specially appointed people to work on the ground level. There are group admins who are paid to spread information and promote their political parties on WhatsApp. There are no norms as to how they are supposed to do the same. They just exist and do their work.

There are researchers out there researching on the psychology of the reader. The reader of messages don’t care about the authenticity of the news, nor do they care about the sender. The only thing readers, on most occasions, care about is the ability of the message to entertain or to provide a sense of identity. This is where the political parties try and influence the people in India. It is a huge medium and it has a huge responsibility.

-Unmesh Phule

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