Fact Checking WhatsApp

With the continuing proliferation of so-called Fake News, it is becoming more and more important to ensure that we can differentiate between them. And while on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, fake news is often spotted and called out, it has proven a little more difficult to do on platforms which are not open, (like WhatsApp) and where messages are often taken at face value.

In response, Africa Check, a fact-checking NGO, is launching a new service called “What’s Crap On WhatsApp” intended to allow users to either authenticate, or disprove, content shared with them on WhatsApp.

In keeping with the theme of WhatsApp, Africa Check’s acting Deputy Chief Editor, Kate Wilkinson, explained that it would take the form of a “show” that would be produced and disseminated as a WhatsApp voice note in conjunction with Volume Investigations, an NPO dedicated to African radio journalism and investigative programs.

How It Works

People who receive a WhatsApp message whose authenticity they doubt, or want to confirm, will be able to send it to Africa Check’s dedicated WhatsApp number or send a screenshot of the WhatsApp to their Twitter account.

Over the course of a month, they will aggregate the submissions, and produce a 2-3 minute breakdown of what was true, and what wasn’t. In addition, each week they will send a broadcast of what has been fact-checked so far, and send that to their followers, then respond to follow-up questions etc.

The Extent Of Fake News

According to Ms Wilkinson, it’s actually very difficult to determine the extent of fake news and bogus messages shared on WhatsApp, mostly due to the one-to-one (or internal group) nature of WhatsApp communications. Since the sender knows that only the intended recipients will receive the message, nobody else knows what is being shared.

“We know that fake news is being shared on WhatsApp but we can’t fact-check it if we don’t know what is being shared,” she explained.”If you look at the work we do with traditional media, such as Twitter and Facebook, we are able to see if something is amiss, but when it comes to WhatsApp we rely on users to send that information to us and we hope with the new voice note show that more people will learn about our work. We hope people will simply click ‘forward’ to our WhatsApp number so that we can check it out.”

Start Fact Checking Now

Although the WhatsApp fact checking service is not yet officially launched, Africa Check is encouraging people to start sending suspicious content to their dedicated WhatsApp line already, so that they can start checking.

You can forward anything suspicious to Africa Check’s WhatsApp number here: 073 749 7875 (South Africa only).

You can also tweet screenshots to their twitter account: @AfricaCheck

According to Ms Wilkinson, “Once we have a range of fact-checks to make we’ll hopefully send out the first show within a month or so.”