New Delhi: WhatsApp's "Checkpoint Tipline" service that was launched with much fanfare on April 2 to help users in India report fake news is not a helpline number but a data-gathering research project to help the Facebook-owned platform understand how misinformation spreads.
According to Proto, a media skill start-up WhatsApp has partnered with for its "Checkpoint Tipline" initiative, the service is "not a helpline" but a research project.
"The 'Checkpoint Tipline' is primarily used to gather data for research, and is not a helpline that will be able to provide a response to every user," Proto posted in an FAQ on its website.
A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed to Buzzfeed News that the announcement hadn't meant to imply that every request would receive a response.
People in India can submit misinformation or rumours to the "Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp" at +91-9643-000-888.
Unfortunately, it is too late for WhatsApp to spot and take action on fake news for the elections via this project as the first phase of voting begins on April 11.
In a statement, WhatsApp said that it had clarified in the very beginning that the tipline was meant to help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint.
When the tipline was first announced on April 2, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp said its users in India would be able to share messages with the tipline, in order to help Proto verify their authenticity.
"This combined effort by WhatsApp and industry organisations will help contribute to the safety of the elections, by giving people means to know if the information is verified and deter people from sharing rumours that have no basis in fact," said the company.
Proto clarified that "over the next four months, we expect to aggregate these signals at scale, to better understand how misinformation during large events of public interest in India such as the elections spreads across languages, regions, even issues".
It means the project is of no use when it comes to spot and remove misinformation in the upcoming general elections.
The response time will vary based on the complexity of the submissions. However, verifications will not be instant.
"If the new rumour is both within scope and verifiable, the verification centre will prioritize requests based on their urgency.
"Finally, if the new rumour is both within scope, verifiable and prioritized, the verification centre may take up to 24 hours to send back a report," said Proto in its FAQ.
In a nutshell, the WhatsApp project is to gain insights into how fake news spread and is not going to help the Indian government curb misinformation in the April 11-May 23 election period.