Fighting messaging app misinformation
August 9, 2019
A conversational newsletter from
Smooch by Zendesk 
We’ve talked about The Encryption Paradox — the challenging reality that the same features that make private messaging private also make it difficult to monitor for bad behavior and potentially harmful misinformation. 

Over the past couple weeks, the chat platforms have faced mounting pressure to undermine end-to-end encryption by creating a backdoor for law enforcement. 

But a growing number of organizations are tackling the challenge head on. And they’re doing it through messaging apps themselves.

Factcheck mate ♟

This week journalism non-profit Meedan launched a suite of tools for reporters to use during global elections, natural disasters and other time-sensitive events. 

Called Check, Meedan’s platform uses Smooch to connect to WhatsApp’s Business API so that citizens can submit photos and news stories via WhatsApp for journalists to verify or debunk.

The integration was piloted during the Indian elections last spring. But with massive elections in Australia, Argentina, Canada and the U.S. expected in the coming year — and with access to all the world’s messaging channels via Smooch — the Check platform has the potential to tackle the problem of viral misinformation on a global scale.

Game on 🎮

Meanwhile, investigative journalism startup Point is trying to fight messaging-based misinformation — and raise funds — by creating its own video game. 

On their Kickstarter page, Point’s Jay McGregor explains that “Misinformer” will be a “text-based detective style mobile game” in which the player has to “crack a major misinformation-based conspiracy before an upcoming election.” 

Essentially, it’s a fictionalized version of Meedan’s Check platform – putting the player in the role of “citizen journalist.”

If the game is effective, it could teach people to think twice before sharing unverified information in real-world messaging apps. As McGregor told
« If there ever was a time to be better informed about misinformation, it’s now.

New kid on the blockchain 🗞 

The New York Times is also throwing its newsboy hat into the ring.

Led by The Times’ R&D team, The News Provenance Project aims to establish the authenticity of images by publishing the originals to a blockchain. The idea is to prove where an image originated from and whether it’s been edited along the way. 

This isn’t the first attempt to “fix journalism” via blockchain, points out Matthew Beedham in The Next Web. A similar initiative called Civil failed last year, despite being backed by respected media brands like Forbes. Beedham seems a bit skeptical: 
« Blockchain hasn’t proven to be the answer yet, but good on The New York Times for trying.

WhatsApp Pay is Coming to India

In much-anticipated news, WhatsApp confirmed it will be launching in-app payments later this year, starting in India.

The move is part of Facebook’s ongoing effort to reorient the business around private messaging. It’s also a key milestone in its mission to bring conversational business into the mainstream. 

First we take Mumbai...

The announcement comes within days of WhatsApp reaching 400 million active users in India. To put that number in perspective, the country has about 450 million smartphone users, which means nearly everyone in India with a smartphone uses the world’s most popular chat app.

As The Drum explains, “the ambition for WhatsApp Pay is to make sending money as easy as sending a message.” This idea is especially appealing in India, where the government has clamped down on paper currency in a bid to fight corruption.

Will Cathcart, Global Head of WhatsApp, told Business Today
« We believe that if we get this right, it will accelerate financial inclusion and bring value for people in India’s fast growing digital economy.

Then we take Berlin 🥁

Of course, we can’t talk about WhatsApp Pay without bringing up Libra, the cryptocurrency Facebook is launching next year in partnership with Visa, PayPal, Uber, Stripe and others.

The Drum notes that Libra could be “the fuel that powers WhatsApp Pay in a way that few others can compete with.” That includes Chinese giants like WeChat Pay — Facebook’s conversational commerce crush — and Alibaba’s Ali Pay. 

Earlier this year Facebook confirmed it would bring its three leading messaging channels (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram) onto one unified platform

Now it’s officially rebranding its cooler stepchildren as “WhatsApp from Facebook” and “Instagram from Facebook” — Millennial and Gen Z eye-rolling notwithstanding. 

With 2.6 billion users combined, Facebook’s messaging ecosystem is already a force to be reckoned with. Once in-chat payments are available everywhere from Brazil to Bahrain to Bulgaria, it may become unstoppable.

😎 Thanks for reading and have a great weekend. Feel free to send me your feedback, questions and unverified gossip by replying to this email. 

Dan Levy
Editorial Director

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