Facebook’s throwing money at yet another massive fake news problem.
This time, the company is offering researchers as much as $50,000 in exchange for studying the spread of fake news on WhatsApp. The announcement comes after the Indian government criticized the messaging service for its role in spreading false information tied to a series of deadly instances of mob violence in the country.
Under the new initiative, researchers whose proposals are approved can obtain grants up to $50,000 for studying various aspects of misinformation on WhatsApp, including election-related issues and viral content.
“WhatsApp is commissioning a competitive set of awards to researchers interested in exploring issues that are related to misinformation on WhatsApp,” the company writes in its announcement.
“We will seriously consider proposals from any social science and technological perspective that propose projects that enrich our understanding of the problem of misinformation on WhatsApp.”
Though the researchers will receive “guidance” from the company, they will not be given access to WhatsApp data, the company says.
Addressing the spread of fake news (or, “misinformation” in Facebook-speak), has become an increasingly urgent issue for WhatsApp. While the spread of fake news on the main Facebook app has attracted attention from U.S. media and lawmakers, the spread of false information on WhatsApp has been particularly destructive in India.
The problem has gotten so bad that a government-dispatched “rumor-busting announcer,” assigned to warn locals about the dangers of fake news, was killed last week, The Washington Post reports.
“Instances of lynching of innocent people have been noticed recently because of large number of irresponsible and explosive messages filled with rumours and provocation are being circulated on WhatsApp,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and It wrote in a statement earlier this week.
“The Government has also conveyed in no uncertain terms that WhatsApp must take immediate action to end this menace and ensure that their platform is not used for such malafide activities.”
The app also recently rolled out new admin controls for WhatsApp that are meant to make it easier for the administrators of large public groups to control who can post content.