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WhatsApp chain messages: an enemy out of control

Three recent cases of WhatsApp chain messages have claimed the lives of innocents in some parts of the world. Find out here more about it

WhatsApp chain messages: an enemy out of control

WhatsApp chain messages are an enemy out of control, that are killing innocents. Although the misinformation in them varies, in the chains that circulated between July and October 2018, which led to lynchings in three countries, there is a common disinformation factor: the alleged kidnapping of children. These are the cases:

Leer en español: Cadenas de WhatsApp: un enemigo fuera de control

India loses 20 innocents

Horrified This is how the WhatsApp company felt after knowing that 20 people lost their lives when they were lynched in India. The reason for their deaths: a WhatsApp chain that warned about a band of kidnappers of children in their area. The reality: the authorities confirmed that everything was a lie, as reported by La Vanguardia of Spain. The events took place in July 2018.

What did WhatsApp do? Due to pressure from the government of India, WhatsApp made a decision to appeal to control. To achieve this it focused on the groups (where the false chains tend to circulate) giving control to the administrators so that they could now silence all the participants, except for them.

With this measure, WhatsApp pretended that this will end up with the people who generated false information by blocking them from the group. In addition, the answers given by the members of the group cannot be shared, but only by the administrator. The changes were announced by the same WhatsApp. But did they really work? Not really.

WhatsApp Chains Take 4 Innocents in Mexico

Just one month after what happened in India, the WhatsApp chains claimed the lives of two peasants (father and son) in Puebla, Mexico, where they were lynched and burned on August 29. A day later, a couple visiting Tala, Hidalgo, died at the hands of the community as a result of a WhatsApp chain.

The reason in both cases was the possible presence of children kidnappers. Both the Public Prosecutor of the State of Puebla and the Prosecutor's Office of Hidalgo stated that the deceased had no judicial record and that they were not guilty of any kidnapping of children, as described in Mexico's ADN 40. The office of Hidalgo made known the fake WhatsApp chain that the couple would have died for. 

The disabled Venezuelan who was killed in a locality of Bogotá

At the end of October 2018, Maikel Mares, a young Venezuelan, was lynched by the community of the Divino Niño neighborhood in the town of Ciudad Bolívar in Bogotá. The trigger of his murder: a WhatsApp chain that warned about Venezuelans who were kidnapping children.

According to the authorities, in information known exclusively to the Investigative Unit of El Tiempo, Mares was innocent and had nothing to do with the kidnapping of children.

"The boy they killed had a limping left leg, and that's why he could not run when people attacked him, they kicked him, threw stones at him and stabbed him (...) A little while ago they had come from Venezuela and although they owed me the rent, he did not get involved with anyone, it was an injustice," indicated a testimony in the hands of the authorities revealed to the Investigative Unit of El Tiempo.

 How could the chains be controlled by WhatsApp?

Taking into account the previous cases, WhatsApp should put a check filter to the users before sharing information on their platform, either in groups or individually, when there is a common pattern in the chains that are cataloged as generators of misinformation. But how would it work?

When the user receives a message (audio, text or image) from another person reporting an event and wanting to share it with another person, WhatsApp will automatically ask, through the opening of a window, the link or the name of the media where the information comes from. WhatsApp will then tell the users that they will have to wait a few minutes while the truth of the information they want to share is verified.

In this way, WhatsApp in alliance with Google will make a tracking of said link or name of the media and the information associated with it (WhatsApp chain) on the web. If the information is approved, a green checkmark will appear, otherwise, a red X will appear with a message that could be: "WhatsApp identified that the content you want to share is cataloged as misinformation and did not comply with the truthfulness filter. Therefore, you will not be able to share it and it will be eliminated from the platform."

Also, governments within their education programs should encourage a type of critical reading, in which the data is checked, people discuss in a group and the personal opinion of the person of the reader is known in the face of the information that is being received. This in order to further expand the educational landscape, but collectively, thus leaving the banking scheme of education in which only information is accumulated by the student.

Maybe, in the future, that education scheme that I name contributes to end the false WhatsApp chains that today claim the lives of innocents.

 

LatinAmerican Post | Edwin Gustavo Guerrero Nova

Translated from "Cadenas de WhatsApp: un enemigo fuera de control"

 

* Writer's opinion does not represent this newspaper

 

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