Have a research proposal to tackle fake news? Whatsapp has $50,000 to offer as a research grant

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 05, 2018 10:55 hrs

It appears Whatsapp, the social messaging platform is keen to shed its image as a platform used to spread misinformation. The portal which has been under fire after the Indian government sent a notice on Wednesday, warning it about it's platform used by miscreants to further anti-social activities.

"We sent a notice to WhatsApp yesterday. We found that disinformation and provocative messages on WhatsApp played a major role in instigating violence," said IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at an event on Wednesday.

An official from the Ministry of Electronics and IT, conveyed that the Facebook owned Whatsapp cannot "evade accountability and responsibility".

No soon did the notice arrive, has a new page on the website of Whatsapp arrived. It details research awards. The page reads, "The program will make unrestricted awards of up to $50,000 per research proposal."

"All applications will be reviewed by WhatsApp research staff, with consultation from external experts. Payment will be made to the proposer’s host university or organization as an unrestricted gift."

In case you are interested to check the details of this program, click this link.
Clicking this link will take you to an external page.

Applications are due by August 12, 2018, 11:59pm PST. Award recipients will be notified of the status of their application by email by September 14, 2018.

The Indian government's notice to Whatsapp was owing to a strong belief that provocative messages transmitted via Whatsapp were responsible for the killings of innocent lives in states such as Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Tripura.

The IT minister at a recent public appearance explained that Whatsapp had replied back to India's concerns. "They say they've launched a setting where a group admin can decide who can send messages. They also said they're trying to see that messages aren't forwarded without reading and understanding." he added.

The messaging app in its subsequent replies has been reported of saying that machine learning, automated technologies and partnership with academic institutions and BoomBox to check for hoax news were some of its strategies to reduce the spread of "misinformation".

A Whatsapp official was quoted as saying, "We believe this is a challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together."

A workable research proposal is expected to allow Whatsapp to "foster insights into the impact of technology on contemporary society in this problem space" including election-related content, digital literacy and "detection of problematic behavior within encrypted systems."

Whatsapp's abuse has been a matter of growing concern for the ministry as well as its large 200 million user base. False news spread via the messaging platform has been found to be at the centre of the brutal killing of at least 12 incidents in the past week itself. Five people got lynched in Dhule district in Maharashtra on suspicion of them being part of a gang of child-lifters. In a similar incident in Tripura recently, two people were lynched and six others thrashed.

Assam, too, witnessed a case of lynching last month on similar ground.

The Centre has additionally expressed that other social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook too "must remain accountable, responsible and vigilant."