May 30, 2024

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Mozilla warns WhatsApp against misinformation in the elections

Mozilla warns WhatsApp against misinformation in the elections

Mozilla researchers are concerned about WhatsApp policy. They ask the messaging service to take more action against misinformation in upcoming elections around the world.

In 2024, at least 4 billion people will go to the polls in 64 countries, including the United States and India, but of course also Belgium. Social media companies like Meta, YouTube, and TikTok have already promised to protect the integrity of those elections, but Mozilla points out that WhatsApp has not yet established a policy. Researchers point out that the influence and reach of the messaging service is no less important than the influence of major social media.

“Nearly 90 percent of Meta’s planned online safety interventions focus on Facebook and Instagram,” said Ondanga Madong, a senior researcher at Mozilla. Engadget. He wonders: “Why didn’t Meta publicly develop a plan on how to combat misinformation during the elections?” Fair question, given that WhatsApp has over 2 billion users worldwide and is the largest messaging service ever. Facebook Messenger (2nd globally) has 930 million users.

Mozilla: “Sabotaging WhatsApp”

Mozilla Meta is now calling on it to conduct a thorough examination and modify the way WhatsApp works. One notable suggestion is to add labels that can classify viral content as “misinformation.” Instead of “Forwarded too many times” notifications, WhatsApp users can see a personalized message: “Forwarded too often: please check.” Mozilla wants to make users “stop and think” about the viral messages they are being sent.

So far, more than 16,000 people have signed Mozilla's call, hoping to combat political misinformation. Mozilla's strong assertion follows research the company conducted on online platforms and elections in Brazil, India and Liberia. The first two markets are among the largest WhatsApp markets worldwide. Mozilla found that political parties in those three countries had begun to “micro-target voters” with propaganda and, in some cases, even hate speech.

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“Thanks to the encryption that WhatsApp uses, they are abdicating their responsibility,” Madong added. “In the context of elections, the content itself is not necessarily the problem. The point is that a small group of people can easily influence a large crowd.

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