Increased information flow can enhance citizen engagement with democratic affairs, reduce inequalities and strengthen community. But while the Internet and social media were initially thought to bolster ‘participatory democracy,’ concerns now abound that these new technologies undermine the quality of political deliberation and the nature of social interaction. Fake News, or online misinformation, has been found to slowly foster fragmentation, polarization, and the loss of common public sphere across the globe. 

This project aims to build a mobile app to address the rising threat of fake news on the popular messaging network WhatsApp, used by nearly 1.5 billion people worldwide, a majority of whom come from low-to-middle income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. WhatsApp has been central in disseminating false stories and misinformation, significantly restructuring political discourse, and even affecting election outcomes in these countries. This new mobile app will automatically detect and alert users whenever they receive fake information via WhatsApp. The proposed app also mitigates limitations of existing efforts to combat fake news by simplifying the process of evaluation and making it cost-free for users, both in terms of time and cognitive effort.

The project has the potential to deepen our understanding of the phenomenon of fake news, as well as the effectiveness of fact checking platforms. It could also prove instrumental in building momentum for similar solutions in other contexts.