WhatsApp, India’s most popular messaging platform, has become a vehicle for misinformation and propaganda ahead of the upcoming election. The Facebook-owned app has announced new measures to fight this but experts say the scale of the problem is overwhelming.
India was in the grip of patriotic fervour in early March when WhatsApp groups were flooded with photographs claiming to show proof that unprecedented Indian air strikes in Pakistani territory had been successful.
While India’s government said the 26 February strikes had killed a “large number of militants”, Islamabad insisted there had been no casualties.
But BBC fact-checkers found that the photos – purportedly of dead militants and a destroyed training camp – were old images that were being shared with false captions.
One photo showed a crowd of Muslim women and men gathered around three bodies but those pictured were actually victims of a suicide attack in Pakistan in 2014. A series of photos – of crumbling buildings, piles of debris and bodies in shrouds lying on the ground – were traced to a devastating earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in 2005.