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Aug. 9, 2019, 8 a.m.
Audience & Social

Investigative journalism YouTube outlet Point is raising money for a misinformation-themed video game based on real-life stories

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“Misinformer: A Detective Game Based On Real Journalism.” The investigative online journalism startup Point, a London-based investigative journalism startup focusing on technology and internet culture that publishes solely via video investigations on YouTube, is running a Kickstarter to launch Misinformer, “a text based, detective-style mobile game that puts the player in the position of citizen journalist who has to crack a major misinformation-based conspiracy before an upcoming election.”

Misinformer’s model is other story-based games like Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire, and Papers, Please. The stories in the game will come directly from Point’s investigations; whenever Point releases a new story, it will be fictionalized and turned into a downloadable update for the game. The game will be available as an app; the app and new downloadable stories for it will cost something, though prices are yet to be determined. “We’re still working out the economics of it all, but we’re aiming for extremely affordable,” Point cofounder Jay McGregor told me in a DM. (Point’s other cofounder is software developer Ed Spencer.)

For now, the three-year-old Point primarily publishes with regular freelancers. Some examples of its past work include investigations into Russian spam on Reddit and British American Tobacco’s attempts to influence millennials with “spinout” lifestyle brands that skirt advertising laws. McGregor sees Misinformer as a way to help fund Point’s journalism and hopefully, down the line, make some freelancers permanent staffers.

Point seeks to raise $22,505 by August 23. As of August 8, it had raised a little over $3,000.

How an Indian police officer stops WhatsApp-fueled lynchings. Ozy has a fascinating story about Rema Rajeshwari, a police officer in Telangana state in southern India who’s led efforts to stop lynchings based on fake news spread via WhatsApp. (There were at least 45 WhatsApp rumor–linked lynchings in the country last year; there are more than 400 million Indian WhatsApp users.) From Maroosha Muzaffar‘s story:

With 400 villages under her jurisdiction, in two districts of Telangana, Rajeshwari assigned officers to go door-to-door to warn villagers against these fake videos and fake news. “It was a hard task because in our country the public doesn’t trust the police,” she says. After months of sleepless nights, during which troublemakers in these villages did their part to spread even more fear, Rajeshwari decided to rely on a traditional form of storytelling called Janapadam — a short skit in which two or more people narrate a story — to combat the fake news. While other states struggled to curb the fake-news-fueled violence, residents of Rajeshwari’s villages stayed safe.

It took the 2016 U.S. elections for Rajeshwari to take an interest in fake news, and it wasn’t until March last year that she first had to deal with the fallout. “The people that were looking at the video didn’t understand if it was fake or real. We had to subdue the fears and stop any killing from taking place in these [400] villages,” she says. In addition to her patrolling team of police officers, she hired musicians, artists and village council heads to mingle with villagers and help them distinguish between what is fake and what is real.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit is underway in India, “asking the country to force people to link their WhatsApp accounts to their Aadhaar, India’s controversial biometric ID number for nearly all of the country’s 1.4 billion residents,” reports Pranav Dixit for BuzzFeed. The change would make users identifiable and traceable; WhatsApp is built, of course, on the ability to have private, encrypted conversations. Dixit notes:

WhatsApp is taking these developments seriously, flying out its top legal counsel, Brian Hennessy, to the hearing from its California headquarters. The company hired Arvind Datar and India’s former law minister Kapil Sibal, two of India’s highest-profile (and most expensive) lawyers to make its case before the judges.

Their arguments against traceability in the high court were blunt.

“Requiring WhatsApp to trace originator information is disproportionate to the laudable aim of preventing and detecting crimes, particularly since users can easily migrate to encrypted platforms that do not have such an obligation,” WhatsApp stated in a 27-page submission to the court reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

The company also stated that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption promoted citizens’ fundamental rights and enabled journalists, civil society organizations, members of ethnic and religious groups, activists, and artists to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression “without fear of surveillance or retaliation.”

POSTED     Aug. 9, 2019, 8 a.m.
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