WhatsApp partner clarifies India tip line is actually a research project and ‘not a helpline’

Proto, the company with which WhatsApp has been associated in its new Checkpoint Tipline service, has clarified that the service "is not a helpline" and is primarily intended as a research project. In a frequent question posted on its website, the company said: "Checkpoint's tipline is used primarily to collect data for research, and is not a helpline that can provide a response to each user." A WhatsApp spokesperson later confirmed to Buzzfeed News that the announcement was not intended to imply that each request would receive a response.

When the advice line was first announced on Tuesday, WhatsApp said users could share messages with her so that Proto could verify its authenticity. He added that "this combined effort of WhatsApp and industry organizations will help contribute to the security of elections, by giving people means to know if the information is verified and to dissuade people from sharing rumors that have no basis real". He said the tip line would create a rumor database to study misinformation.

Subsequent tests conducted by Reuters and Buzzfeed News suggested that not all messages would receive a response from the suggestion line. Reuters noted that a message informing was still pending classification two hours later, while Buzzfeed News sent two links, three text samples and three images without receiving a response.

In your frequently asked questions, Proto has now explicitly stated that you will not be able to verify all available rumors. Instead, it will focus on reports that can be evaluated in "public and accessible information" and that will not attempt to verify rumors that "it would require journalistic reports or verification of facts." It says that the verification center can take up to 24 hours to verify a message, after which "it will give priority to the newest queries". However, over time, Proto observes that its response times will improve as a message directory is accumulated and evaluated.

The Proto service, which will run for four months, is doing vital work to help us understand the spread of erroneous information online. WhatsApp presents a particular challenge due to its end-to-end encryption. However, given that elections are already under attack in places like Brazil, many expected this initiative to focus more on stopping the spread of wrong information in the first place.

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