Those WhatsApp forwards
John Oliver highlights rampant misinformation in diaspora communities, including among South Asians on WhatsApp.
Hi all —
I always hear stories from my parents’ generation, who when they were new to the United States, would have to spend dollars per minute just to make a static-filled call to family in India — if the connection even worked. Which is why when you step back and reflect — our 2021 connectedness is pretty remarkable. We’re all just a free WhatsApp call or WeChat message away.
But it’s news to no one in Asian American diaspora communities that these private messaging platforms are full of misinformation. Especially the forwards… Fake cures for diseases. Misleading political memes. Photoshopped newspaper screenshots.
PBS NewsHour reporter-producer Saher Khan and I recently reported out a story for the NewsHour about misinformation on these platforms that diaspora communities depend on — and the complexities that come with tackling misinformation. We spoke with experts and members of diaspora communities that encounter these issues. Check out the story on the NewsHour website.
Also: In October, John Oliver tackled the same issue on his show in this segment that makes a lot of great points. A relevant one if you haven’t seen it…
But it’s a tricky conundrum. While public social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can implement tools to help flag and detect problematic content, it’s nearly impossible on private messaging platforms (like WhatsApp, WeChat, Signal, etc.), unless users in those chats flag something as abuse — or people just think twice about pressing “forward.” It’s a good reminder to be skeptical about the original sources of those forwarded messages.
Thanks for joining the conversation,
Vignesh Ramachandran (@VigneshR)
Co-founder of Red, White and Brown Media
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