At a time when India is preparing for the general elections (Lok Sabha elections expected in April-May), the Misinformation Combat Alliance (MCA) and Meta, on Monday, announced that a dedicated fact-checking helpline on WhatsApp — aimed at combating deepfakes and deceptive artificial intelligence-generated content — will be launched for the public next month.

“The MCA and Meta are working on launching a dedicated fact-checking helpline on WhatsApp in an effort to combat media generated using AI, which may deceive people on matters of public importance, commonly known as deepfakes, and help people connect with verified and credible information,” said MCA, adding that the helpline will be available for the public to use in March.

The MCA is a Delhi-based cross industry collaborative effort set up with the objective of combatting and limiting the spread of misinformation through targeted interventions and activities. It currently has 16 members, including fact-checking organisations, media outlets, and civic tech.

The MCA-Meta collaboration will allow MCA and its associated network of independent fact-checkers and research organisations to address viral misinformation – particularly deepfakes. People will be able to flag deepfakes by sending it to the WhatsApp chatbot which will offer multilingual support in English and three regional languages (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu), it said.

The programme is based on a four-pillar approach – detection, prevention, reporting and driving awareness around the escalating spread of deepfakes, along with building a critical instrument that allows citizens to access reliable information to fight the spread of such misinformation, it added.

The MCA will set up a central ‘deepfake analysis unit’ to manage all inbound messages they receive on the WhatsApp helpline.

The Deepfakes Analysis Unit (DAU) will serve as a critical and timely intervention to arrest the spread of AI-enabled disinformation among social media and internet users in India, Bharat Gupta, President, Misinformation Combat Alliance, said.

“Use of credible fact checkers to label misinformation is good. All Internet platforms/ Intermediaries in India have a legal obligation to ensure no misinformation/deep fakes are posted in their platforms by their users,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, in a post on X.