Given an increase in criticism from the Indian government due to incidents of mob violence provoked via WhatsApp, Facebook has announced WhatsApp social science and misinformation request for proposals.
The social media giant has offered researchers a grant worth of $50,000 for studying the fake new epidemic.
WhatsApp’s Grant to Researchers
On its website, Facebook said, ‘WhatsApp is commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp.”
“We welcome proposals from any social science and related discipline that fosters insights into the impact of technology on contemporary society in this problem space.”
The purpose of funding such a program is to offer independent researchers a way of looking into what makes social media a hotbed of fake news.
What Facebook Expects Researchers to Study?
Well, Facebook has also issued a clear directive regarding research on the spread of fake news and misinformation, for which it is releasing the study grant.
In the announcement on its website, it has listed the core areas of exploration in research as information processing of problematic content, election-related information, network effects and virality, digital literacy and misinformation, and detection of questionable behavior within encrypted systems.
So, overall Facebook is interested in a well- researched study by some independent social and behavioral scientist who can tell what prompts users to share sensitive news without verifying it and how the social media can make attempts to prevent the spread of false news.
Facebook has recently faced the wrath of users after it was exposed that few third-party apps had used its platform to manipulate elections in US and India. It had made its founder Mark Zuckerberg apologize for users’ privacy breach.
Effects of Spreading Fake News Through Social Media
It only takes users to receive news that appeases to their prejudice, and they don’t take even a second to act upon “Forwarded as Received.” They spread the sensitive news without verifying it and consequently cause the incident of mob violence that leads to the loss of precious life that too brutally. The recent events of mob lynching in India that were provoked by fake news spread via Whatsapp are one such example.
Further, the spread of fake news during the election season also does a lot to misguide the voters. It wouldn’t be wrong at all to say that social media platforms including messenger apps like Facebook indirectly allow users to fabricate stories based on their prejudice and share them with the public who might, in turn, overreact to it, causing anarchy in society.